Being courteous to our colleagues
17 September 2019
The 2008 case of LSC v Turley  LPT 4, concerned two charges for professional misconduct against a solicitor in the course of child protection proceedings in Queensland. One charge related to submissions he made to the court, which contained scandalous and offensive remarks about the departmental employees.
"Staffed by animals…people who are almost like a (coven) of witches".
These comments were found to amount to professional misconduct.
The way that solicitors and barristers interact with our non-legal colleagues is still of paramount importance ten years later. While we should advocate with robustness for our client, this should not undermine the reputation and standing of the legal profession. This extends to non-legal professionals such as police, registry staff, social workers and child safety officers and other professional witnesses.
Whilst most interactions are courteous and positive, some types of behaviour go beyond advocating for your client. While there is an adversarial aspect to our job, and while some solicitors advocate ‘theatrically’ for their client, this should never be at the expense of another person’s emotional safety or welfare. It is natural to be frustrated when people don’t understand the way the court or legal world work but there are a lot of people in this category. Interacting with lawyers can be very intimidating for people not least of all unrepresented people.
The Queensland Law Society website has excellent resources on the ethics and conduct expected of solicitors. Our conduct "directly impacts on public confidence in the profession and more broadly, in the administration of justice. For this reason lawyers have a duty to encourage public confidence in their profession. This means maintaining the highest of ethical standards and always acting in the best interests of a client and the community". How does our behaviour impact on the community’s impression of the profession as a whole? What you walk past is what you accept - when poor behaviour goes unchecked and other lawyers stand by and don’t say anything. What does this say to the early career lawyers who are new to a jurisdiction?
Most solicitors would be aware that to be honest and courteous in our dealings in legal practice is a fundamental ethical duty. The Australian Solicitor Conduct Rules 2012 (‘ASCR’) also proscribe that a solicitor must not engage in conduct…which demonstrates that the solicitor is not a fit and proper person…and which is likely to ...bring the profession into disrepute. Rule 34.1.3 of the ASCR states that a solicitor must not in any action or communication associated with representing a client: use tactics that go beyond legitimate advocacy and which are primarily designed to embarrass or frustrate another person." This rule confirms that we are bound in our duty to the administration of justice and not conduct ourselves in a way that is primarily designed to embarrass or frustrate another person and is a tactic that goes beyond legitimate advocacy.