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Ethics checks for law firms

    Introduction

    We have developed what we hope will be a varied and ever-expanding suite of short, sharp on-line surveys which allow law firms to review (or ‘audit’) aspects of their ‘ethical infra-structure’ – both their formal policies and procedures and management arrangements and also and in particular the unwritten rules and customs and behaviours that determine what actually happens in practice.

    For more introductory information about the Ethics checks for law firms see explanatory notes (PDF, 14.4 KB)

    Confidentiality

    The Ethics checks comply fully with the relevant national ethical standards (PDF, 14.5 KB). They take less than 30 minutes to complete and are designed to preserve the anonymity both of the individuals who complete them and their firm.

    For more information about the Confidentiality of our Ethics checks see confidentiality of surveys (PDF, 10.5 KB).

    Ethics checks for law firms - the surveys

    Click here to go to the surveys.

    How to participate in an Ethics check for law firms

    The Commission welcomes inquiries from law firms that may be considering participating in a survey and from people who have been appointed to be their firm’s Survey Manager.

    We will be happy to deal with queries on a confidential basis. Simply email us at lsc@lsc.qld.gov.au and type the words 'Ethics checks' in the subject bar.

    We cannot stress how important it is, if your law firm is considering taking part in an Ethics check, to appoint a designated Survey Manager to oversee the process and explain it to the firm’s employees. It is not a difficult or time consuming exercise but experience tells us that it is crucial to the success of the exercise and that it is best to appoint someone who has some management authority within the firm. We urge Survey Managers to familiarise themselves with the relevant (and crucial but straightforward) instructions, below:

    Feedback about the ethics checks

    The Commission routinely seeks feedback from the principals of law firms which take part in our Ethics Checks for Law Firms surveys soon after their firms have completed a survey. We receive both anonymous and 'on the record' comments. More details at: Feedback about the ethics checks.

    Publication of results and research

    We will publish and continually update the aggregated and non-identifiable results on our website (see Ethics checks for law firms – the survey results) so that firms can not only obtain but compare their results with the results of other like firms and the results overall. That will be a rich source of information for those and other law firms and, importantly, serves the public interest by exposing aspects of law firm culture to public scrutiny.

    We will also share the aggregated and non-identifiable results with academic researchers with an interest in the area. The Ethics checks are not designed to be a form of empirical social science research – they are designed to help lawyers and law firms reflect on their ethical infrastructure and to promote discussion within law firms that might help them identify gaps and make improvements – but they nonetheless capture useful and even unique data about the values, attitudes and behaviours of lawyers and law firms.

    That data lends itself to further and rigorous scientific research and we welcome collaboration with legal and other academic researchers to that end. That is another way we can serve the public interest by exposing aspects of law firm culture to public scrutiny.

    For references to published articles or summaries of those articles:

    • Ethics inside law firms (PDF, 407.0 KB): an overview and summary of a paper titled The Queensland Workplace Culture Check: Learning from Reflection on Ethics Inside Law Firms presented to the International Legal Ethics Conference IV, Stanford Law School, California USA, 16 July 2010. The full article has been published in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics: Workplace Culture Check: Learning from Reflection on Ethics Inside Law Firms (2011) Parker, C and Aitken, L. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, vol 24, issue 2.
    • Inside running (PDF, 401.2 KB): This pre-publication draft has been published in the Monash University Law Review. The full reference is - Parker C and Linda H, Inside Running: Internal Complaints Management and Regulation in the Legal Profession. Monash University Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2010: [217-249]
    • The Pressures of Billable Hours (PDF, 220.3 KB): lessons from a survey of billing practices inside law firms. Parker, C. & D. Ruschena, University of St Thomas Law Journal, 2011, 9(2), 618-663.

    The following report has referred to the Legal Services Commission Queensland Ethics Checks surveys in the analysis of tools used to monitor ethics culture:

    JOTWELL Reviews

    The Journal JOTWELL (Journal of Things We Like a Lot) publishes reviews written by academics about journal articles that they consider to be of particular significance. JOTWELL has published reviews of two of our published articles:-

    In January 2011, Professor Elizabeth Chambliss reviewed John Briton & Scott McLean, Lawyer Regulation, Consciousness Raising, and Social Science; and reviewed Christine Parker & Lyn Aitken (2011), The Queensland “Workplace Culture Check”: Learning from Reflection on Ethics Inside Law Firms Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, vol 24, issue 2.  Both papers were first delivered at the International Legal Ethics Conference IV hosted by Stanford Law School in July 2010.

    In April 2012, Professor Laurel Terry reviewed Christine Parker and Lyn Aitken (2011), The Queensland "Workplace Culture Check": Learning from Reflection on Ethics Inside Law Firms Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, vol 24, issue 2.

    Last reviewed
    25 October 2013
    Last updated
    25 October 2013

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