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Legal Ethics (LAWS50038)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50038
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Legal Ethics takes special responsibility for the study of professionalism, ethics and public service. Students in Legal Ethics explore the particular role that lawyers play in society, the values of the legal profession, and how the lawyer's role as both an advocate for the client and officer of the court has implications for the daily practice of law and relationships with clients and other practitioners. Topics covered include conflicts of interest, a lawyer's duties of confidence and professional responsibilities in the making and maintaining of claims of client legal privilege. The modern practice of law can experience a tension between traditional understandings of professionalism and commercial imperatives. Particular attention will be given to developing knowledge, insights and strategies that will allow students to recognise and understand tensions between traditional understandings of professionalism and the modern practice of law and to consider how they might personally manage these tensions.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • Know the general law and professional conduct standards that regulate lawyers, including the duty to the client, to the court, to other practitioners and to third parties;
  • Understand how the role of lawyers, values of the profession and theories of justice underlie those duties, and have an extended understanding of recent developments in relation to ethics and professional responsibility and the implications for professional practice;
  • Be able to apply a lawyer's duties to various complex fact scenarios;
  • Be able to communicate aspects of a lawyer's professional obligations to a non-specialist audience (such as a client);
  • Demonstrate the cognitive skills and ability to reflect critically on the practical difficulties and ethical tensions that a practising lawyer will sometimes experience in discharging professional obligations and an ability to explore various ways to respond to those difficulties or tensions with creativity and initiative while still maintaining a high level of personal autonomy and accountability; and
  • Understand and be able to apply the principles relating to the holding of money on trust.

Generic skills

Students who successfully complete the subject will have further refined the following skills developed during the first and second years of the JD degree:

  • Skills in identifying and resolving complex legal problems;
  • Skills in considering a range of options in response to a legal problem, and in identifying those which are sound, principled, and best meet the needs of the client or other audience while recognising the potential impact on third parties;
  • Skills in being open to new ideas and the perspectives of others;
  • Skills in the critique of received wisdom;
  • Skills in confronting unfamiliar problems and applying knowledge of legal ethics and professional practice principles to those problems with creativity and initiative; and
  • Skills in comprehending complex concepts and expressing them lucidly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Last updated: 11 September 2019