01 October 2018

Australian barristers warned about bad behaviour after 'recent incidents'

'Recent incidents' prompt president of the NSW bar association to write to members warning of perils of e-communication and social media.

Arthur Moses SC, president of the NSW Bar Association, issued a public warning in the association’s daily news bulletin ‘In Brief’ to remind its members about appropriate conduct in relation to use of social media.

‘recent incidents’

Mr Moses states a ‘number of recent incidents,’ which he did not elaborate on, had ‘prompted’ him to remind members of their obligations under the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015. He writes that ‘electronic communication, including email and the use of all forms social media [sic], requires the same level of courtesy and professionalism as other more traditional means of communication.’ He noted the Barristers’ Rules, stating ‘one object of the rules is to ensure that barristers act in accordance with the general principles of professional conduct’ and ‘maintain high standards of professional conduct,’ and also stressed the need for ‘exemplary conduct’ when attending functions associated with the organization. Mr Moses advised that ‘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’ and ‘you should be aware that any comment made online, even in a closed/secret Facebook group, can be shared via a screen shot.’

Consequences

In a wide-ranging rebuke, Mr Moses cited the association’s rule 8, stating ‘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,’ and under rule 123 he explained ‘a barrister must not in the course of practice, engage in conduct which constitutes discrimination, sexual harassment, or workplace bullying.’ All these actions have consequences he noted and that for members ‘a general awareness that unacceptable behaviour may lead to these consequences should be borne in mind.’