A number of recent incidents have prompted me to write to remind members that electronic communication - including email and the use of all forms social media - requires the same level of courtesy and professionalism as other more traditional means of communication. This is reflected in the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015. One object of the Rules is to ensure that barristers act in accordance with the general principles of professional conduct. The principles of the Rules state that the Rules are made in the belief that, inter alia, barristers must maintain high standards of professional conduct and that barristers owe duties to the courts, to their clients and to their barrister and solicitor colleagues. The Rules provide that a barrister must not engage in conduct which is discreditable to a barrister or likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or bring the legal profession into disrepute. The Rules also prohibit conduct which constitutes discrimination, sexual harassment or workplace bullying. Breach of the Rules is capable of constituting unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
Members should be especially vigilant when using methods of communication which are by their nature less formal in tone, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram and other forms of social media. In addition, you should be aware that any comment made online, even in a closed / secret Facebook group, can be shared via a screen shot.
Conduct at functions associated with the Bar Association
The Bar Association organises, or is associated with, a number of social functions to which barristers are invited. I wish to remind members of the need for exemplary conduct when attending such functions. By all means enjoy yourself, but be mindful that your conduct must not cause harm to, or negatively impact, others.
I would like to bring to your attention some provisions of the Barristers’ Rules that you must keep in mind at such events. Under Rule 8 of the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015, a barrister must not engage in conduct which is dishonest or otherwise discreditable to a barrister or is likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession. In addition Rule 123 of the Barristers Rules provides that a barrister must not in the course of practice, engage in conduct which constitutes discrimination, sexual harassment, or workplace bullying. Both these Rules are relevant to your conduct at such events which are work events. In addition, if the Bar Council suspects on reasonable grounds that a person has committed a serious offence as defined in section 6 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW)), then section 465 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) imposes on the Bar Council an obligation to report the suspected offence (if it has not already been reported) to the police or other appropriate investigating or prosecuting authority.
The fact that your conduct may become the subject of complaint, or referred to the police or other relevant authority, is not in itself the reason why proper behaviour is expected of barristers. However, a general awareness that unacceptable behaviour may lead to these consequences should be borne in mind.
If you feel you are consuming too much alcohol, or not coping with work or other life pressures, a reminder that the facilities of BarCare are available. Jenny Houen may be contacted via telephone on 0427 317 958 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org