Journal Article

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

Jill Howieson

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 25, issue 1, pages 71-99
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online January 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
The Professional Culture of Australian Family Lawyers: Pathways to Constructive Change

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  • Marriage and the Family


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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.

Journal Article.  10684 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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