As the legal profession evolves and faces new challenges, the ethical responsibilities of lawyers are becoming increasingly complex.
Professor Vivien Holmes SFHEA has co-authored a new textbook with Associate Professor Francesca Bartlett (University of Queensland) that navigates the ethical terrain of today's legal landscape.
The fourth edition of Parker & Evans’s Inside Legal Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2023) provides readers with a roadmap to ethical decision-making in legal practice in Australia.
“The book explores the professional and ethical responsibilities of lawyers,” Professor Holmes said. “It analyses legal and professional frameworks, highlighting relevant parts of the Australian Solicitors' Conduct Rules.”
The book also addresses the challenge of ethical action. It includes practical examples through case studies, along with discussion questions to help readers understand the material.
“This edition has been comprehensively updated, including a discussion of new conduct rules,” Professor Holmes said. “It continues the discussion in previous editions about the implications for lawyers’ ethics of advances in legal technology and mental ill-health in the profession.”
This edition of the book also includes, for the first time, a section discussing the ethical complexities of government legal practice and a chapter on lawyers’ ethics in the face of climate change and environmental collapse.
Professor Holmes explained that “lawyers have a crucial role in expediting the transition to clean energy and in finding innovative solutions for decarbonisation. But climate change is also impacting many other areas of legal practice.”
“Law must evolve to play its part in addressing the existential threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. Lawyers have a key role to play in assisting that evolution, and the ethics that govern lawyers’ work will play a large part in determining its success.”
The new textbook is underpinned by four theoretical concepts - adversarial advocacy, responsible lawyering, moral activism, and ethics of care - that provide a framework for lawyers to consider the different ways that they can address ethical challenges.
Professor Holmes explained how ‘adversarial advocates’ view themselves as an “agent for the client”, while ‘responsible lawyers’ see their primary role as an "officer of the court with a duty to the integrity of the legal system”.
Alternatively, Professor Holmes said ‘moral activist lawyers’ hold “themselves morally accountable for their actions as lawyers”, while the ‘ethics of care’ approach “focuses on serving the best interests of both clients and others in a holistic way”.
Professor Holmes hopes that these theoretical concepts will serve as a “useful tool” for lawyers to “develop a strong sense of their own values and motivations, within the ethical context of Australian legal practice.”
“The book also aims to develop readers’ skills in acting in alignment with their values and their professional responsibilities,” she said.
Professor Holmes currently teaches Lawyers Justice and Ethics at the ANU College of Law and convenes the Community Law Clinic.
“This book aligns perfectly with my teaching and my research into the legal profession and lawyers’ ethical responsibilities,” she said.
The fourth edition of Parker & Evans’s Inside Legal Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2023) is available for order online. Purchase your copy here.