Professional Responsibility

Subject Outline

What the subject is about

Lawyers must have the knowledge and skills to act ethically and be able to demonstrate professional responsibility and professional courtesy in all dealings with clients, the courts, the community and other lawyers. This requires you to have more than just knowledge of the codes of conduct and a willingness to follow those codes but also the instincts to exercise good judgment and act with integrity in your professional and personal life.

In this subject, you will cover the written and unwritten rules of professional conduct and you will be encouraged to reflect on the role and values of lawyers and the wider issues facing the legal profession.

This subject will also give you some strategies and techniques that will help you to recognise ethical issues, make ethical decisions and give you the confidence to voice ethical concerns in practice.

Learning objectives

At the end of this subject, you will be able to demonstrate the competence required of an entry level lawyer in:

  • identifying, addressing and resolving ethical issues as they arise in practice
  • choosing courses of action most appropriate to serve the best interests of the client, the court, the profession, the employer, society and yourself, and resolving conflicts between the various duties
  • discussing wider issues affecting the legal profession
  • identifying the assistance available to lawyers seeking to resolve ethical dilemmas.

The content of this subject is structured as follows:

Acting ethically
Acting ethically in practice

Complying with professional conduct rules
Unit 2: Complying with professional conduct rules and standards

Complying with rules relating to charging fees
Unit 3: Establishing client retainers and handling costs issues

Discharging the legal duties of practitioners
Unit 4: Complying with the duties to account and of care
Unit 5: Complying with the law and the duty to the court

Complying with fiduciary duties and avoiding conflicts of interest
Unit 6: Complying with fiduciary duties and avoiding conflicts

Acting courteously and professionally
Unit 7: Acting professionally with the public and other professionals

Learning tasks and resources

You will participate in an online discussion forum, an interactive workshop and learn from experienced lawyers about how to deal with ethical issues in practice.

To assist your learning, you have online resources such as readings, interactive tutorials, demonstrations and exercises. You also have a hard copy of the College’s practice papers, which are also available online and in eBook format.

The course timetable sets out the milestones for you to meet, and guides you through the subject. However, other than meeting dates for submission of work, attending the workshop and completing assessment tasks, you can progress through the learning resources and tasks at your own pace, when and where it suits you.

Your lecturer is your mentor and will give you individual guidance. Your lecturer will also give you feedback, and coach you to achieve the required level of competence.

Practical ethical problems will also be considered in the context of other subjects.