A positive professional ideology for lawyers: Fidelity to the good of dispute resolution (DR)

s-l300A positive professional ideology for legal DR practice should incorporate a genuine fidelity to the good of DR. This ‘good’ derives from the values and goals of DR that are firmly situated within the framework of the rule of law in Australia’s Western liberal democracy. Core DR values include justice, party autonomy and community. Lawyers practising DR need to be professionally committed to working to realise these values across the matrix of DR processes, as they constitute an anchor of belief and perspective, and represent the grounding positive contribution that lawyers as DR practitioners make to society. DR values should influence professional lawyering and decision-making, guiding judgments as to what is acceptable and ethical. DR process goals — procedural and substantive justice, impartiality, self-determination and participation, and access to justice — represent the procedural objectives for putting such values into practice. Together DR values and goals provide the foundations of DR as a societal ‘good’, and form an ethical, just foundation for a positive professional ideology for lawyers.

Parties who seek the services of DR legal practitioners are almost always in a position where they are struggling to manage or resolve their disputes themselves. This is why they need access to legal DR expertise. They find themselves without the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve effective dispute resolution, or conflict management, on their own. Being in dispute or conflict is often a difficult, stressful and disheartening time for people. Through a fidelity to the good of DR, lawyers not only contribute constructively to society but they can also achieve positive interpersonal and individual change for their clients. This positive impact has the potential to extend to healing, wholeness, harmony and optimal human functioning.

It is difficult to measure or quantify the exact actual benefit of DR practice for societal harmony, for legal certainty, for the quality of business and personal relationships, and for the well-being of citizens. It is nonetheless our contention that lawyers practising DR are, by putting the values and goals of DR into action, contributing to and sustaining, an inherent public good.

These thoughts have been adapted from Chapter 13 of Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field, Australian Dispute Resolution: Law and Practice (Lexis Nexis, 2017). We welcome your responses to them.

Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field

Acknowledgement of image: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=images+for+fidelity&rlz=1C1CHZL_enAU769AU769&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjF3sen79rdAhXY7WEKHdGNB5gQ7Al6BAgAEA0&biw=853&bih=386#imgdii=MAkGkWr9xEeZIM:&imgrc=EEsqx8d9gM18PM:


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About Dr Rachael Field

Rachael is a Professor of Law in the Law Faculty of Bond University. Her key teaching and research interests are in legal education and dispute resolution. Rachael was awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation in 2008 and was made an ALTC Teaching Fellow in 2010. In 2010 Rachael worked with Professors Sally Kift and Mark Israel on the development of the Threshold Learning Outcomes for Law. In 2013 Rachael and Prof Nick James published a first year law text entitled "The New Lawyer". Rachael has been a member of the First Year in Higher Education Conference organising committee since 2007 and now chairs that committee. She was awarded the 2013 Lexis Nexis Australasian Law Teachers’ Association Major Prize for Teaching Excellence and Innovation jointly with her colleague James Duffy. In 2014 Rachael was awarded an Office of Learning and Teaching national Teaching Excellence Award. Rachael has also been a member of the Women’s Legal Service, Brisbane Management Committee since 1994 and has been President of the Service since 2004. In 2010 Rachael, along with the Women's Legal Service Brisbane, was commissioned by the Federal Attorney-General to design a model of family dispute resolution for use in matters where there is a history of domestic violence. This model was implemented in 5 locations around Australia for 18 months and was evaluated by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. In 2011 and 2012 Rachael was invited by the Australian Human Rights Commission to contribute to their International Program by presenting the model to bi-lateral workshops with the All China Women's Federation. Rachael completed her PhD through the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Professor Hilary Astor in 2011. Her thesis explored the notion of neutrality in mediation and offers an alternative paradigm based on professional mediator ethics. Rachael was named Queensland Women Lawyer of the Year for 2013. Research Interests • Dispute Resolution • Women and the Law • Restorative Justice • Family Law • Legal Education

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