Sexual harassment, bullying and legal profession regulation

Date & time
1pm Wednesday 25 August 2021

Online via Zoom

Associate Professor Vivien Holmes
Professor Tony Foley SFHEA
ANU Law Marketing
ANU College of Law Research Seminar

Part of the ANU College of Law Research Seminar Series 2021 series

Sexual Harassment, Bullying & Legal Profession Regulation: Is Strengthening Ethical Culture the Answer?

This work builds on recently published research (33 Geo J Leg Ethics 1035 (2020); 27(2) Int J Legal Prof 1 (2020) described as ‘one of the best works of recent scholarship relating to the legal profession’ and praised as making an important contribution to both applied and theoreticial legal ethics (Jotwell June 2021). That work focused on the importance of sound ethical workplace culture for lawyer wellbeing. In legal workplaces characterised by a ‘getting ahead’ climate, where rule bending (if not breaking) was condoned, lawyers (especially young lawyers) exhibited heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression. This new work in development turns the focus to the role of ethical climate in eradicating sexual harassment and bullying in legal workplaces.

Survey after survey of the profession show a worryingly heightened prevalence of sexual harassment and bullying (SHB) in legal workplaces. In this presentation, Associate Professor Vivien Holmes and Emeritus Professor Tony Foley SFHEA will review the factors associated with a high incidence of SHB at work and the research on ethical/ unethical culture in workplaces and how these two might intersect.

The propositions they will assert are firstly, that there is a correlation between SHB factors and generally ‘poor’ ethical culture, and secondly that a focus on the ethical culture of a workplace can produce dividends in terms of minimising not only ethical infractions generally but specifically SHB behaviour. In the earlier work they tested their propositions about the impact of ethical culture empirically. They outline here their currently developing project design for a further empirical inquiry in Australian legal workplaces. They will be seeking comments on this proposed design.


  • Associate Professor Vivien Holmes »

    Associate Professor Vivien Holmes teaches and researches in the fields of legal ethics, legal education and the legal profession.

    Prior to joining ANU, Vivien worked as a litigation solicitor in private and government practice, a government legal policy officer, the Registrar of the NT Supreme Court, the NT Registrar of Probates, the NT Deputy Coroner and a Judicial Registrar of the NT Magistrates' Court. She has been a member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and is a member of the ACT Law Society’s Complaint Committee.

  • Emeritus Professor Tony Foley SFHEA »

    Emeritus Professor Tony Foley SRHEA is a leading scholar in the areas of institutional responses to criminal wrongdoing and restorative justice. He also conducts empirical research on the legal profession and lawyer well being. He has published widely in those fields and regularly presents his research at national and international conferences.

    Tony sits as a Senior Member of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. He was the final Chair of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council, the territory's peak law reform body, which ceased in 2019.


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