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The Professional Culture of Australian Family Lawyers: Pathways to Constructive Change

International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family , Volume 25 (1) – Apr 1, 2011


Oxford University Press
Copyright © 2011 Oxford University Press
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The Professional Culture of Australian Family Lawyers: Pathways to Constructive Change


An empirical psycholegal field study of 230 Australian family lawyers and 94 clients provides valuable information to guide government policies aimed towards changing the broader litigation culture. The study contributes knowledge of our legal cultural capital and of what motivates and influences family lawyers and litigants in their choice of dispute resolution process. A constructive lawyering model emerges from the study, which shows that family lawyers use a mix of lawyering approaches. The article illustrates how this constructive approach is one that clients prefer in terms of fairness and satisfaction with the dispute resolution experience, and in terms of perceptions of procedural justice. The study also provides evidence that alternative dispute resolution education has made a difference to our family litigation culture. Drawing from the results of the study, the article presents a behavioural map of family lawyers and their clients, and a goal profile that highlights issues, which policymakers, educators, and practitioners may want to consider in any initiatives aimed at culture change in other jurisdictions. The article ultimately argues that culture change is psychological and suggests that we need to understand the psychology of lawyers and their clients to ensure that sustainable and comprehensive long-term change is possible.
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