December 14, 2013


Ethical behaviour for legal professionals is guided by legislation, rules and regulations (i.e. the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules), but ethical behaviour cannot be restricted to the abiding of rules alone.

While laws and ethics are both rules of conduct and they both regulate human behaviour and guide human choices,[1] I feel that ethical absolutes are indefinable.  There is not one ethical dilemma that every single individual of the human population would face in an identical manner.  Ethical dilemmas are called dilemmas for a reason.  It is evident from the readings, and from work experience within law firms, that as a lawyer I will face questions of ethics regularly and I know it is something that will take practice to handle gracefully and efficiently.  The best that I can do as a legal professional, is to critically evaluate the situation, determine the relevant legal rules, determine the relevant ethical principles and consider the consequences of my decision.[2]

My personal ethics are usually dependent on consequence.  I generally will analyse the consequences of a certain choice that will be experienced by others, and also by me. This is a quality that I will most likely carry through to my legal career.  However, I am sure that this trait will mature and develop as I grow professionally and personally.

Legal rules and ethical rules usually coincide, but there are times when they will be in conflict. A conflict between professional and personal ethics is something that raises reservations with me.  I do want to maintain a distance between my personal values and professional behaviour, but I do not want to abandon or set aside my personal values completely.[3]  The textbook suggests three other approaches to these type of conflicts:  responsible lawyering, a moral activist approach and the ethic of care.[4]  It is likely that throughout my career I will have the opportunity to practice all of these approaches and determine which works best for me and the specific situation at hand.  To handle and overcome these predicaments I will need to be confident with my choices once they are made, as it is probable that there would be many opposing arguments.

Overall, as a lawyer I would like to build a reputation as a professional with integrity and ethics and I am sure that further knowledge and experience will help me to build the characteristics I desire.

[1] Nikolas James and Rachael Field, The New Lawyer (John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd, 2013) 443.
[2] Ibid 444.
[3] Ibid 465.
[4] Ibid 465 - 466.