post

An Australian Study on Lawyer Vulnerability & Legal Misconduct

Vulnerability to Legal Misconduct: Qualitative Study of Regulatory Decisions Involving Problem Lawyers and Their Clients

An emerging body of scholarship discusses ‘vulnerability’ as an antecedent of legal misconduct. One conceptualization of vulnerability indicates that an individual has greater susceptibility to risk of harm, and safeguards may protect against that risk of harm. This empirical study adds to the normative research with a qualitative analysis of 72 lawyers with multiple complaints and at least one hearing, paid financial misconduct claim, or striking from the roll (“problem lawyers”) in Victoria, Australia, between 2005 and 2015 through 311 regulatory decisions. We found that problem lawyers were disproportionately likely to be male, over age 45, and work in a sole or small practice. A quarter of these lawyers suffered from health impairments and among the clients harmed, half had cognitive impairments, were older age, or non-native English speakers. These findings underscore the need to better understand vulnerabilities to promote lawyer well-being, protect exposed clients, and reduce lapses in professionalism.

Access Full Report Here

Authors: 

  • Tara Sklar, University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law
  • Jennifer Schulz Moore, University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Faculty of Law
  • Yamna Taouk, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
  • Marie M Bismark, University of Melbourne

Research on client care letters

Research by Optimisa commissioned by the legal regulators in England and Wales finds that client care letters – letters sent to clients to explain the lawyer-client relationship when the lawyer is first instructed – are not sufficiently effective. The research identifies principles to help legal services providers better communicate with their clients. These principles are well established in the field of plain English communication, including things like ‘Show a clear purpose’ and ‘Make it easy to read’.

News release on Bar Standards Board website

Research on Client Care Letters report on Bar Standards Board website

Research on Client Care Letters report (PDF)

Attitudes to dishonesty by health and care professionals

This research looks at public and professional attitudes towards dishonest behaviour by health and care professionals. The researchers used qualitative methods to explore responses to a number of scenarios based on real-life cases of professional dishonesty.

The research was commissioned by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which oversees the work of nine statutory healthcare regulators UK, and conducted by independent research agency Policis.

Broadly, the report finds that healthcare professionals and the public share a common moral framework and a shared understanding of what constitutes aggravating and mitigating factors.

Read report on PSA website

Read copy of report on ICLR.net

Innovation in legal services

The Solicitors Regulation Authority surveyed 1,500 organisations and concluded:

  • Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) have succeeded in promoting innovation and diversity; ABS Solicitors are 13-15 per cent more likely to introduce new legal services.
  • Solicitors are, on average, more innovative than other regulated legal services organisations in terms of both managerial and organisational changes.
  • 80 per cent of legal services organisations feel they have a leadership and culture which supports the development of new ideas.
  • The major effect of innovation in legal services has been to extend service range, improve quality and attract new clients.
  • Regulatory and legislative changes emerge as both a barrier to and driver of innovation. Regulatory and legislative issues were seen as being a significant impediment to innovation by only one fifth and one quarter of respondents respectively.

Solicitors Regulation Authority. “Innovation in legal services.” July 2015.