Vulnerability to Legal Misconduct: A Profile of Problem Lawyers in Victoria, Australia

Posted: 11 Dec 2018 Last revised: 1 May 2020

See all articles by Tara Sklar

Tara Sklar

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Jennifer Schulz Moore

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

Marie M Bismark

University of Melbourne

Yamna Taouk

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

Date Written: April 27, 2020

Abstract

Public trust in the legal profession rests on regulators taking timely and effective action in response to misconduct. Usually, case-by-case analysis occurs after a claim or complaint is lodged with little attention on factors that may predispose a lawyer to misconduct. Vulnerability is a useful concept for understanding individuals' susceptibility to harm and for identifying safeguards to protect against that harm.This empirical study adds to the largely normative research on vulnerability with an analysis of 67 "problem lawyers" who were the subject of multiple complaints and at least one disciplinary hearing, a paid financial misconduct claim, or striking from the roll in Victoria, Australia between 2005 and 2015. We analysed determinations about these lawyers and identified a concatenation of factors associated with legal misconduct. Personal vulnerabilities included older age, male sex, poor health, and patterns of behaviour such as low conscientiousness. Situational vulnerabilities included working as a sole principal or in a small practice, excessive workload, and pressures from relationship breakdowns, death or illness in the family, or financial difficulties.These findings shed light on vulnerabilities to legal misconduct, and have implications for lawyer education and well-being, protection of clients, and efforts to reduce lapses in professionalism.

Keywords: empirical legal research, vulnerability, professional responsibility, legal profession, lawyer regulation, lawyer misconduct

Suggested Citation

Sklar, Tara and Schulz Moore, Jennifer and Bismark, Marie M and Taouk, Yamna, Vulnerability to Legal Misconduct: A Profile of Problem Lawyers in Victoria, Australia (April 27, 2020). International Journal of the Legal Profession, DOI:10.1080/09695958.2020.1751166 (Apr. 27, 2020), Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 18-36, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3299744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3299744

Tara Sklar (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Jennifer Schulz Moore

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Marie M Bismark

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053
Australia

Yamna Taouk

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health ( email )

207 Bouverie Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3010
Australia

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