Ethics in Lives of Rural Lawyers

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Long title: 
Unexpected Findings: The all-Pervasive Importance of Ethics in the Lives of Rural LAwyers
Hart, Caroline
Author(s)' contact information: 
University of Southern Queensland, Australia
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location: 
City University London

This paper considers the unexpected findings on ethical matters as a result of research into rural legal practice in Australia. Paradoxically, that research was primarily concerned with business management.
The research relies on interviews with over 30 principal lawyers in rural Australian law firms relating to their business management practices. However, what was revealed throughout the interviews was the importance of ethics in all its manifestations. When presented with the opportunity to discuss, in a confidential setting, life as a lawyer, participants themselves chose to guide the interviews into ethical territory, expressing concerns over topics such as: the unethical behaviour of their partners and colleagues (often resulting in partnership disputes); the stress and burden of regulatory compliance; and the lack of confidence and ability in providing adequate legal supervision to junior employees.
This paper looks at the importance of empirical inquiry into the reality of ethics as it is experienced by rural lawyers. It sheds light on how (and if) ethics connects with and relates to rural lawyers. The gaps, misconceptions and issues surrounding ethical compliance are more fully and frankly examined. The research provides an important insight into the future possibility of considering better means of securing ethical compliance in rural legal practice.

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