We all love what lawyer Dennis Denuto stood for in The Castle: fighting for the Kerrigan family, the Aussie battlers threatened with eviction from their home to make way for an airport expansion.
As lawyers we value our role, to be able to stand up for those who are in a vulnerable position, cannot speak for themselves or understand the law, or otherwise loathed by society.
Lawyers operate under a set of rules that outline ethical duties. It is not all about “the vibe”, as famously said by the bumbling Dennis Denuto.
Unfortunately though, our profession has been the brunt of backlash for merely doing our job.
Our own Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has described lawyers who represent asylum seekers as “un-Australian”.
Sam Macedone has previously spoken out about being trolled online for acting for reporter Ben McCormack, who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.
Lawyer Tim Marsh has spoken about the emotional toll he suffered after defending a child killer.
The legal profession upholds the rule of law, ensuring that everyone has access to the law and they are treated equally by the law, regardless of race, sexual preference, gender, religion, power or wealth.
We operate under a set of rules (Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules) that outline our ethical duties. It is not all about “the vibe”, as famously said by Mr Denuto.
The overriding duty is to the court, to ensure the efficient and proper administration of justice. At no time can a lawyer mislead the court – this includes when our client has instructed us to tell a court something we know to be untrue.
We must act with competence, honest and courtesy in all dealings with clients, witnesses, all parties to a matter and the court.
We need to put aside personal bias or judgment and be independent. If we disagree with our clients’ decisions or actions we cannot let this affect our representation of them.
Acting in our client’s best interest ensures we protect and pursue their rights. If they instruct us to do something on their behalf which is lawful but we disagree with it, we must still act as instructed.
Every person has a right to legal representation, so before you criticise a lawyer due to the actions of their client, remember that they are just doing their job.
Alison and Jillian Barrett are both principals at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. The Queensland sisters are experienced lawyers and passionate social justice campaigners. Alison juggles motherhood, as well as heading up a major legal practice area. Younger sister Jillian also leads a team of lawyers and sports a double degree in Law and Journalism.