Solicitor, Barrister, Lawyer or …?

My friends on Twitter have been discussing the nomenclature we use to describe members of the legal profession (the polite nomenclature, that is). I wrote a thing about it.


6 thoughts on “Solicitor, Barrister, Lawyer or …?”

  1. Taking the time to write is a challenge these days. Contemporaneous note taking for professional work purposes can be time consuming (albeit necessary). I want to engage in more reflective writing in my professional context but it is so easily put off in the face of more “pressing” demands. I have come to a compromise by using my social media activities as a kind reflective expression. It is a bit messy at times, but I think that is what good reflective writing can be.

  2. Thanks for that info. I do agree with the idea that practice, and a practised process, are useful for developing a good sense of professional responsibility. I’d be lying if I said that I especially enjoy the workshop method of learning, but I must concede that there’s no substitute for it.

    The emergency evacuation example you started off with was an interesting one. I read a book some time ago which very persuasively explained why emergency drills of all kinds, if conducted regularly enough, are so effective.

    I hadn’t thought a lot about the importance of being able to “give an account”. As someone who does regularly try and write down my thoughts, I can see exactly why that would be so useful. Often, a person hardly understands their own reasons for thinking and doing anything until they actually put it into words.

  3. Thank you for your post, Daniel. I tend to agree with what you say here. A couple of things I would like to pick up on – the idea of internalising values and also the merit in seeking guidance from a colleague with experience in such matters. I think the process of internalising values is driven by experience and intuition but I think it can be enhanced by a methodical approach to professional responsibility too. I talk about this in another post regarding ethical decision-making. The ethical decision making model is directed toward resolving ethical dilemmas; however I think it can also be used as a methodical approach to making decisions regarding professional responsibilities. This is leads me to your comment that the fact of seeking advice counts for something when one is called to account for one’s conduct. The decision making model (which includes seeking information regarding professional values) is a useful tool for giving an account of one’s decision making.

  4. No, there’s probably no need for more specific guidelines. It’s not a moral-ethical rule, but one intended at maintaining professional principles. You can clearly identify the extreme breaches (eg. writing letters of demand for a client, under your letterhead), but on the whole, professional behaviour is more context specific than moral behaviour, it needs to be internalised, and it’s true that you get a feel for it. The most important thing is to have enough of a feel for it that a little alarm of doubt goes off in your head and you go and get advice from another barrister and/or the ethics committee if you need to.

    It’s also true, and useful, that it gives regulators more flexibility. Like any law, flexibility comes at the expense of certainty, but I think that’s less of a concern in terms of fairness when you’re talking about a rule directed only at a class of people who claim professional competency at understanding laws and rules. It’s no more vaguely defined than “negligence”, which can spell instant bankruptcy for most citizens. Also, in conduct matters, the question of whether someone thought to seek advice from the ethics committee, or not, always looms large.

    Similar thoughts apply to the prohibition on Barristers advertising their services, which is also blurred at the edges – eg. the conduct rules forbid me to advertise, but it’s common and acceptable for clerks to buy space in the Law Institute Journal to “introduce their new barristers”.

  5. That’s interesting information, Daniel. Do you think there should be more explicit guidelines? Or would that give regulators less room to move when determining conduct matters?

  6. Rule 120 is a funny one – it’s strongly emphasised in the Bar readers’ course, but no-one can clearly define where the line is drawn for “solicitors’ work” – especially with the modern tendency for barristers and solicitors to encroach on each other’s traditional turf (solicitors drawing pleadings; direct briefs in VCAT). Typical explanations are along the lines of “you’ll get a feel for it” and “filing documents, that’s certainly solicitors’ work at least”.

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