The Professional Behaviour Guidelines for Students require that all students conduct themselves in a manner that reflects three core sets of integrated values of professional behaviour:
Respect and courtesy
- Treat individuals with respect in every communication - in class, in communications about assessment and in consultations outside class.
- Disrespectful, unreasonable, offensive or aggressive behaviour is unacceptable.
- Bullying, harassment and discriminatory behaviour is unacceptable.
Honesty and candour
- Interactions should be honest and open.
- Observe values of trustworthiness, truthfulness, fair dealing and sincerity.
- Acknowledge errors or mistakes.
Care, competence and confidentiality
- Act with care.
- Know the limits of your expertise and skills.
- Don't reveal confidential or sensitive information without authority.
These three core sets of overlapping values should underpin and be upheld in every student’s interaction with all other students, all University staff (including professional staff as well as academic staff and others), visitors to MLS, and other people that students may interact with, such as internship supervisors, officers of legal institutions, as well as MLS mentors. The Guidelines apply to all interactions, whether they occur face to face, by phone, SMS, email, or any other medium such as Facebook, Twitter, or other fora. They apply in all contexts connected with MLS such as classes and events held on MLS premises, as well as activities and events held elsewhere in the University, and off-campus. Those events might be organised by MLS or by student groups. The Guidelines are applicable in relation to students undertaking placements and other learning activities off-campus.
Core Value 1: Respect and Courtesy
Students will engage with people from diverse backgrounds, whether that is within the Melbourne Law School (MLS) community of students, staff and other people, or when engaging in learning activities and events off-campus. Respectful behaviour involves treating every individual with respect in all communications, in any discussion about a person or group of people; and not engaging in disrespectful, unreasonable, offensive or aggressive behaviour; or engaging in bullying, harassing, or discriminatory behaviour towards a person or a group of people.
The core value of respect and courtesy arises in a number of different MLS contexts. The main ones are discussed below.
Respect and courtesy in classrooms and related learning environments
At MLS the learning objectives, forms of knowledge, and desired critical and practical skills are shaped by the nature of the subject matter, the discipline, and the learning attributes of students. MLS teaching practices are designed to meet these learning objectives. MLS teachers differ in background, and have different teaching styles and practices, only some of which may be well-suited to each student's particular learning preferences and experiences. This diversity in teaching approach reflects diversity in the MLS community and contributes to a valuable learning environment for all students. Students should understand and respect each teacher’s academic judgment of how best to meet the learning objectives of the subject. Those decisions are made with the objective of achieving the best learning outcomes for all students, in light of available resources and pedagogical aims.
Attending class: MLS is committed to campus-based, face-to-face learning except in a small number of deliberately designed online subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters (MLM) program. If students are unable to attend a class or part of a day of an intensive class, they should not expect teachers to re-teach the material that has been covered in the missed class. It is up to students to catch up by working through prescribed readings and talking with other students about the issues and questions discussed in class. Consultations with teachers may be scheduled where a student has particular questions they cannot answer from their own efforts.
PowerPoint, LMS and recording of classes: All subjects are supported by a website on the Learning Management System (LMS) on which important subject documents and information is posted. Teachers adopt different styles and practices to provide a range of approaches to learning law, including in relation to the use of PowerPoint and lecture notes. Some teachers upload PowerPoint slides and notes onto LMS, and others do not; some teachers use PowerPoint in classes and others do not. Students should respect the choices made by their teacher regarding teaching method and use of LMS.
Owing to the discussion-based nature of the vast majority of classes, MLS does not record classes except where there are approved arrangements (via the special consideration procedure) under the JD Class Recording Policy. University policy specifies that it is not acceptable for students to use personal devices to record classes, or any clinic-based or experiential learning activity, without the teacher's (or supervisor’s, where relevant) prior written permission, which will usually only be given if exceptional circumstances exist and where the confidentiality of individuals present will be protected.
Student laptops and phones in class: Students can expect to be told what use of personal computers is appropriate for classes in a particular subject. Students should comply with their teacher’s direction – for example, to close laptops for certain activities or not use laptops for taking notes in particular sections of a class, or for whole classes. This matter will have been given due consideration by the teacher and is intended to achieve the best learning environment for all students.
Where the use of laptops is generally permitted in class, courtesy to both the teacher as well as other students means that laptops should only be used for tasks being undertaken at that time in class. For example, email, Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging programs should not be used during class. Similarly, all mobile phones and personal communication devices should be switched off or put on silent while in class, unless exceptional circumstances exist.
Respect and courtesy in consultations and communications with staff outside class
Students may be in contact with their teachers, and other academic and professional staff outside class. Students should appreciate that their teachers are not only teachers. They also research, have wider community involvement and carry out MLS and University administration. As a result, teaching is only one of several responsibilities of academic staff.
As a general approach, students should endeavour to raise their questions and queries about a subject during class. Where that is not appropriate or possible, students may be in contact with their teacher outside class. Teachers will advise how they can best be contacted outside the classroom. Students should respect each teacher’s preference in relation to these matters.
Face-to-face consultations: Teachers may advise students of their consultation or 'open door' hours. Should you wish to consult with your teacher outside class, you should endeavour to do so in those ‘open door’ hours. Where that is not possible, or where your teacher does not have ‘open door’ hours, you will be able to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet with your teacher.
You will also be able to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet with other staff for the purpose of consultation, such as Legal Academic Skills Centre (LASC) staff, and academic staff in other roles, such as Associate Deans and the Assistant Dean – Teaching & Learning. You can book appointments with Graduate Services and Careers professional staff, including the Wellbeing, Global Experience, Careers and Work-Integrated Learning coordinators, online.
Email: Some teachers will respond to student queries via email, to the extent that the question is suited to email. For instance, email can be used effectively to ask brief questions of clarification or of an administrative nature. However, email is inappropriate for questions that raise complex issues relating to matters discussed in class. Students should not expect to be taught through email.
Teachers will respond to an email within a reasonable amount of time. In many cases this is 3–5 working days. Students should be aware that external teachers may take longer to respond, as may a teacher who is overseas. If students have not received a response to their email in the 3-5 day time frame, they might like to contact the staff member again, refer to the previous inquiry and politely request follow-up. It should be noted that students cannot expect teachers to respond to emails outside of office hours or at weekends or while staff are on leave (normally indicated via an ‘out of office’ reply). Teachers may set up other, or additional, guidelines with respect to email, for instance if they will be away from the University for a period of time during semester.
Should students need to discuss a matter urgently with a teacher, and are worried that an email will not be read in time, they should seek help from the subject coordinator or email the Academic Support Office (JD & Breadth: email@example.com, MLM: firstname.lastname@example.org) On assessment-related matters, help should be sought in a timely fashion.
Phone: The MLS office phone numbers of teachers can be found online, and are often contained in the subject reading guide. Teachers will usually endeavour to respond to voicemail messages within 3–5 working days. Students should not expect to be given teachers' home or mobile phone numbers, and students should not seek out those personal phone numbers.
Respect and courtesy regarding assessment tasks
Guidance on assessment tasks: Teachers may discuss during class time the assessment tasks that must be undertaken and what is expected when completing those tasks. Teachers make decisions carefully about how best to support students to undertake assessment tasks, and the form of support varies from subject to subject. Students should respect those decisions.
Students should inform themselves in a timely manner, and comply with, the relevant Word Limit Code and Collaborative Work Code (Statement in Breadth subjects) for each piece of assessment they complete.
Students should be aware that the Legal Academic Skills Centre may provide relevant services for particular assessment tasks. Students should refer to the LASC website, the LASC LMS Community and LASC workshop schedule for further information.
Before an assessment task is due or an examination is scheduled, teachers' time may become scarce. It must be allocated among a number of students with varying needs. Students should respect whatever limits are imposed by their teacher, as these will have been devised in the interests of fairness to all students. For example, it may not be possible to see your teacher more than once in the lead-up to an assessment task.
Feedback on assessment tasks: When an assessment task has been completed, students can expect feedback on it from the marker. That feedback may take different forms. Where the assessment task is not an end of semester examination, feedback will usually contain a written component in addition to your mark / grade. Where the assessment task is an end of semester examination, feedback may not contain a written component. Examiner(s) will be prepared to discuss examinations with students, whether one-to-one or at a dedicated examination feedback session.
When seeking feedback on an assessment task, students should be aware they are not entitled to have a piece of assessment marked a second time. If a student has failed, the paper will already have been second marked prior to the release of results, in line with Law School policy. Detailed information on assessment rules and guidelines is available on the MLS website, via My JD Studies, My MLM Studies, and on the subject’s LMS subject page for Breadth subjects. Results can only be appealed via standard University processes.
Core Value 2: Honesty and Candour
All interactions between students and other individuals in connection with MLS should be honest and open, as well as respectful and courteous. Honesty and candour are key qualities for students to nurture and display, both as members of the MLS community and as potential future members of the legal profession. The reasons for this latter are expressed by Pagone J in Frugtniet v Board of Examiners  VSC 140 at :
A legal practitioner, upon being admitted to practice, assumes duties to the courts, to fellow practitioners as well as to clients. At the heart of all of those duties is a commitment to honesty and, in those circumstances when it is required, to open candour and frankness, irrespective of self interest or embarrassment. The entire administration of justice in any community which is governed by law depends upon the honest working of legal practitioners who can be relied upon to meet high standards of honesty and ethical behaviour.
The commitment to honesty and candour includes observing values as trustworthiness, truthfulness, fair dealing and sincerity. All human beings are fallible. Should students make an error or mistake, they should acknowledge that as soon as they become aware of it.
Core Value 3: Confidentiality and Confidence
In terms of students participating in clinics, internships and other volunteer positions connected to MLS, students should ensure that they act with care and competence. This includes being punctual, dressing appropriately, and listening carefully to, and following directions given by, their supervisor (or teacher). Students should be mindful of the limits of their expertise and knowledge as a law student. They should ensure that their work product is competent and within the scope of their skills and responsibility. In some settings, security protocols may apply, and students should observe these without objection.
Students may come across confidential information relating to other students or staff at MLS or more broadly the University. Students are likely to be entrusted with confidential information relating to clients and others as part of participating in clinics, internships and volunteer positions, for example. In all contexts, students must not reveal information about other people that is confidential or otherwise sensitive information without authority. For example, students should not use the real names of clients in their written work for the subject Legal Internship. Pseudonyms should be used.
A student demonstrating professional behaviour will:
- Show respect to colleagues, academic and professional staff, including respect for any cultural, political and personal differences, both face to face and in all forms of communication.
- Be punctual, participate in classes and comply with the ground rules set out by the teacher. In general the use of mobile phones during class is not acceptable, nor is the use of other electronic or digital devices for non-academic purposes such as email or Facebook. Phones should always be turned off or set to silent in classes.
- Read all relevant MLS emails and newsletters, monitor announcements and updates of coursework through all appropriate channels, and develop familiarity with the course rules and policies on the MLS website so that responsibility can be taken for ensuring that enrolment and other responsibilities are attended to in a timely way.
- Be punctual and dress appropriately for internships, clinics and experiential subjects, including international opportunities, where you are an ambassador for MLS.
- Demonstrate flexibility, courtesy and good humour in dealing with additional requirements (such as security protocols) and program changes that are sometimes necessary in experiences involving visits to workplaces and institutions outside MLS.
A student demonstrating unprofessional behaviour may:
- Be disruptive in classes by not complying with the ground rules set by the teacher, not participating as requested in group work, or leaving classes without excusing themselves.
- Show disrespect for staff (including professional staff, library and ISS staff), clinical supervisors or other students through rude, aggressive or insulting behaviour, speech or communication in written or electronic form. Examples of such behaviour include but are not limited to, belittling the knowledge or contributions of others, persistently talking over others, or making inappropriate comments to or about the teacher or other students, whether cultural, political or personal.
- Fail to respect the need for confidentiality where the student has access to confidential staff or student information gained in classes or other contexts; for example, by disclosing sensitive information in an email, on Facebook or other social media.
- Arrive late or not attend scheduled commitments for clinical subjects, including legal internship without notifying supervisors or staff members.
- Ask legal internship supervisors to sign-off on internship hours or other requirements that have not been met.
Purposes and scope
Melbourne Law School (MLS) has developed these Professional Behaviour Guidelines for Students (Guidelines) for four interrelated purposes. First, interacting with others in a professional manner provides the foundation for a respectful and inclusive MLS community that is conducive to the best educational outcomes for all students. Secondly, MLS has developed these Guidelines to support students in developing and maintaining professional practices in interacting with others, in preparation for entering (or continuing) professional life post-graduation, irrespective of the profession or industry a student moves into.
Thirdly, maintaining standards of professional behaviour has particular significance for law students. Whilst graduates of MLS pursue careers in a wide range of professions, many MLS graduates establish careers in the legal profession. Lawyers, as officers of the court, are required to meet high standards of behaviour. For example, in order to be admitted to the Australian legal profession, an applicant must be “a fit and proper person” to be a legal practitioner. Most admission rules also require that the applicant is currently “of good fame and character”. Students should be aware that applicants for admission in Australia are required to complete a statutory declaration that covers a wide range of matters, including academic misconduct, and general conduct to the extent that it may reflect on whether they are “a fit and proper person” to be a legal practitioner (see Appendix for further information).
Finally, these Guidelines have been developed to further the University’s obligations to provide an environment for all that is safe and without risks to health, under both work health and safety legislation as well as anti-discrimination legislation.
These Guidelines apply to JD students, students enrolled in a Melbourne Law Masters program, as well as students studying in the MLS Breadth program. They do not replace University policies regarding student behaviour, including the University of Melbourne Student Conduct Policy. Rather, the purpose of these Guidelines is to clarify and supplement existing University policies to reflect the standard of conduct expected of MLS students. Other relevant University documents include the
- Academic Board Regulation which sets out the Board’s powers and processes relating to student general and academic misconduct;
- Student Charter which sets out the key principles in the relationship between students and the University, including what students are responsible for and what they can expect from the University;
- Student Academic Integrity Policy which addresses the University’s stance on academic integrity and sets out processes for addressing potential breaches;
- Alcohol Policy which articulates the University’s commitment to an inclusive community for all, including those who choose not to consume alcohol, and to the responsible service of alcohol at University events; and the
- Student Complaints and Grievances Policy, which articulates the nature of complaints students may bring in relation to their studies and sets out the applicable process for addressing a grievance.
The University’s Safer Communities Program may also be of assistance. In addition, students should also remember that they have full recourse to ordinary legal avenues, including the police and the processes of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Students might be interested to know that standards of behaviour of staff are described in a number of University policies, including the Appropriate Workplace Behaviour Policy, which sets out the standards, values and expectations for behaviour of staff in the workplace.
Procedures in Relation to Contraventions of the Guideline
These procedures are concerned with behaviour that is persistently unprofessional, or, in the case of a single instance, impacts substantially on the rights of other students or staff, or involves a deliberate disregard of others' rights or appropriate standards of conduct.
When an incident of unprofessional behaviour occurs, and it is felt by a staff member that this behaviour may breach the Guidelines, the staff member may take the following steps or report the incident to the Assistant Dean. Where a student is concerned that a breach of these Guidelines has occurred, they may report the incident to the subject coordinator or the Assistant Dean. Where the Assistant Dean forms the view that there may be a breach of University policy or rules and considers the breach to be sufficiently serious, the matter may also be referred directly to the Deputy Dean for consideration.
(1) Requests to leave
If a student engages in disruptive or uncooperative behaviour during class, a staff member may exclude the student from the remainder of the class.
If the behaviour occurs in the MLS building but outside class and is disruptive, a staff member or the Assistant Dean may ask the student to leave the area.
Conduct that results in a request to leave should be reported to the Assistant Dean.
Where a student engages in behaviour that is or may be in breach of these Guidelines or University of Melbourne Student Conduct Policy or other relevant University policies or rules, the first response from MLS will in most cases take the form of a meeting to counsel the student about their behaviour. The meeting will normally be between the student, the relevant staff member and the Assistant Dean.
Students can expect that any counselling will be given as discreetly and respectfully as the circumstances allow. If appropriate, the counselling can include reference to these Guidelines and to the possible consequences of breaching them, along with the University of Melbourne Student Conduct Policy and other University policies where applicable.
If a student:
- is not willing to discuss the matter, or refuses to modify that behaviour, or
- persists in unprofessional behaviour after counselling, or
- if a single incident is sufficiently serious, then
the matter will be referred to the relevant Associate Dean.
(3) Investigation and meeting
On receiving any such report the Associate Dean may consider any relevant material including:
- Reports of the incident from the reporting staff member, other affected students, and other staff members as necessary;
- The severity of the incident, the reported or expected impact upon the reporting staff member or student and the potential impact on other students and staff who may have witnessed the incident;
- These Guidelines and any previous reports regarding the student's behaviour, incidents of breaches of these Guidelines, or warnings given under the Guidelines;
- The University's definition of General Misconduct as set out in Statute 13.1 and the requirements of the Student Conduct Policy.
The Associate Dean should then meet with the student who is the subject of the report to discuss the reported behaviour and any possible explanation. The student will be advised that they are permitted to bring a student advocate or support person with them to the meeting, and will be provided with information regarding the UMSU Advocacy Service. The meeting will give the student an opportunity to provide any information they feel is relevant to the incident. The meeting will be conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice, ensuring that all parties are treated equally and fairly. The Associate Dean may choose to include in the meeting the manager, coordinator or supervisor of the reporting staff member and Course Directors as appropriate. If a meeting is requested and the student is unable to attend, the determination of the Associate Dean may be notified to the student by written correspondence after the student has had an opportunity to present their case in writing.
(4) Outcomes / Consequences
The Associate Dean will decide whether the student's behaviour has breached the Guidelines. If the reported behaviour is found to have breached the Guidelines, the Associate Dean may take any or a combination of the following actions:
- Counsel the student regarding their behaviour in relation to the Guidelines;
- Refer the student to appropriate University support services;
- Request that the student undertake training in anti-discrimination, harassment and/or bullying and that the student furnish evidence of successful completion of the training;
- Give the student a warning not to repeat the behaviour and warn the student that further unprofessional behaviour may lead to further action, accompanied by information about what sanctions may be applied if further unprofessional behaviour takes place, including possible referral under the University of Melbourne Student Conduct Policy, pursuant to Statute 13.1 (Student Misconduct);
- Refer the matter to the Deputy Dean.
The Associate Dean will refer the following matters to the Deputy Dean:
- A serious breach of the Guidelines;
- A subsequent matter involving the same or similar behaviour for which a previous warning under the Guidelines has been given; or
- Behaviour that may have breached the University of Melbourne Student Conduct Policy.
In such circumstances the Deputy Dean may decide to:
- Create a file note that is to be held on the student's record. Such a record may become part of the Law School's report to the Council of Legal Education if the student seeks admission to the legal profession. A student will receive a copy of a file note that is placed on their record.
- Refer the matter to the Academic Registrar as alleged general misconduct under the University of Melbourne Student Misconduct Policy. A finding of general misconduct under this policy may lead to a number of serious consequences, including exclusion from the University.
The Deputy Dean may refer a matter to the Academic Registrar as alleged general misconduct even though it has not been referred to her or him by the Associate Dean, and even though none of the steps set out above have been taken.
If a student feels aggrieved by any action taken by a staff member, Assistant Dean, Associate Dean or Deputy Dean they may wish to consult the University of Melbourne Student Complaints and Grievances Policy.
Appendix: Admission to Practice Requirements
- Reports on the applicant's conduct as a law student
- Police reports from Australia and from foreign jurisdictions (where applicable)
- Character statements
- Capacity statement and
- Information about the applicant obtained from other admitting authorities