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