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Regulating lawyers

Regulating lawyers

By Vivien Holmes, Tony Foley, Stephen Tang and Margie Rowe


Protection of the public from misconduct by lawyers and maintenance of proper standards in the legal profession are the overriding goals of lawyer regulation and enliven the broader regulatory structure governing legal practice in Australia. Misconduct by lawyers is not merely a product of an individual lawyer’s actions. Lawyers’ ethical decisions will either be supported or undermined by the culture of the practice in which they work and, in turn, that culture is affected by the regulatory environment in which the practice operates. Regulation of legal practice can positively affect practice culture, but it does not necessarily do so. Our research, focusing on lawyers in their first year of practice,1 confirms that differing practice-based norms of ethical behaviour exist. Since we know from decades of research that ethical norms influence behaviour, we should take careful note of how regulation such as the Legal Profession Uniform Law (LPUL) might influence those norms.

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