More to legal ethics than being a good lawyer

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 28-11-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Sydney Campus

Publication Place



In the legal profession, it is not impossible to be ethical; nor is it easy. Francisco Esparraga, Senior Lecturer, School of Law Sydney has presented a paper to the International Bar Association Conference in Dubai, outlining how teachers of legal ethics at The University of Notre Dame Australia strive to empower Law students to do what is right, rather than just recognise the ethical outlook of a situation.

Legal ethics refer to the professional and personal conduct of lawyers’ duties to the law, to the Courts, to clients and to fellow lawyers. Mr Esparraga said despite being aware of these responsibilities, lawyers don’t always make the most ethical decisions when placed in challenging situations.

“Much of the ongoing discussion relating to legal ethics has been motivated by concerns that legal practice and lawyers are not always as ethical as they may be expected to be, with many examples of unprofessional and unethical conduct being reported in the practice of law,” Mr Esparraga said.

“Conduct which undermines trust in the profession can cause harm to the parties affected and can be damaging to the lawyers themselves in both an ethical and psychological sense. Sadly, rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse are significantly higher amongst lawyers than they are amongst the general population.”

Mr Esparraga said Notre Dame seeks to mentor Law students so that they are aware of the regular moral challenges they will face as practising lawyers and provide the tools they require to address those challenges both professionally and personally.

“The School of Law is committed to producing not only fine lawyers, but well rounded people,” Mr Esparraga said.

“As such, this assumes a far broader mandate regarding the ethical education of our students and recognises the connection between genuine personal and professional integrity.”

The Notre Dame curriculum includes some concentrated study of legal ethics, in addition to asking students to consider broader ethical issues that arise in various areas of the law. This approach ties in with students’ ethical education through the Core Curriculum, which aims to develop the whole person through units in Philosophy, Ethics and Theology. The School of Law Sydney and the University’s Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society have been working together to further improve the teaching of ethics in a professional degree such as Law.

Professor Gerard Ryan, Dean, School of Law, Sydney said Notre Dame’s curriculum takes a whole-of-person approach to teaching ethics.

“The University is committed to the concept of good ethical decision-making being more than compliance with the rules of professional conduct. It goes to the very character of the individual,” Professor Ryan said.

“Good values need to be taught and good ethical decision-making needs to be encouraged and practised to the point where it becomes a habit.”

Associate Professor Sandra Lynch, Director, Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society, said the School of Law’s curriculum reflected the University’s whole-of-person approach to education.

“The Notre Dame curriculum is being developed to provide students with an action-oriented pedagogical approach for developing the skills, knowledge and commitment required to implement values-based practice,” she said.

For further information please contact: Communications Officer, Elizabeth Fenech The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus

T: 02 8204 4407

E: elizabeth.fenech@nd.edu.au

W: www.nd.edu.au/