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Lawyers, Responsibility to Others, and Moral Conversations (Program)

Neil Hamilton, University of St. Thomas (US); Tony Foley, Australian National University (Australia); and Stephen Pepper, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law (US)

Vivien Holmes
, Australian National University College of Law (Australia) (Moderator)

Lawyers, Responsibility to Others, and Moral Conversations

This program will investigate lawyers’ responsibility to others with specific emphasis on the responsibility to engage in moral conversations with clients and colleagues, including in relation to child sexual abuse cases. In particular, participants will discuss:

  • The behavior of the lawyers acting for the Australian Catholic Church in defending actions brought by victims of sexual abuse.  This behavior has come under recent scrutiny by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. 

  • How a lawyer/client relationship that explicitly engages clients in moral conversations might impact upon the behavior of a faith-based institutional client or a corporate client.

  • The problem of the corporation as client and “amoral ethics” squared: (1) the lawyer’s ethic of providing access to and assistance in using the law, even for morally wrongful conduct, combining with (2) the corporate executive’s ethic of serving primarily shareholder value or profit, frequently excluding (or not perceiving) other possible values or moral concerns. 

  • The importance of an ethic of responsibility to others in legal practice.  How we might help law students internalize this responsibility, including preparing them to engage in conversations with people of different traditions about responsibility to others.

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