Professional Behaviour Guidelines
Professional Behaviour Guidelines
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 (both academic and professional staff)
- visitors to MLS
- MLS mentors and
- other people that students may interact with, such as internship supervisors, officers of legal institutions
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, on placements, in other learning activities (whether on or off campus), events, and other activities organised by MLS, the University or by University or MLS student groups, whether or not they are held on MLS or University or off-campus. Specific expectations of students in relation to behaviour in the most common aspects of interactions with staff (in class, in consultations and when making inquiries) are also set out in the Community site in the LMS for your MLS program of study.
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 educational or social events on or off-campus. Regardless of the nature of the event, students are expected to behave appropriately and respectfully.
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 towards a person or group of people; or engaging in bullying, discrimination, harassment, sexual assault and sexual harassment. You must not engage in behaviour that is racist, or which may constitute sexual harassment or sexual assault. Such conduct may be both unlawful and a breach of the University’s student conduct rules.
Core value 2: Honesty and candour
All interactions between students and other individuals in connection with MLS should be honest and open. 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 such 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 lawful and reasonable 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 and courtesy 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 demonstrates unprofessional behaviour where they:
- Engage in bullying, discrimination, harassment, sexual assault and sexual harassment
- Are 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 and library 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.
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
Requirements for admission to practice are governed by the Council of Legal Education and the Board of Examiners. There are three major requirements for admission to practice: academic; practical training; and suitability, which includes character and behaviour (see Admission Procedure) For the last of these, it is necessary for the applicant to satisfy the Board of Examiners that he/she is a fit and proper person to be admitted to practice (s 15 Legal Profession Uniform Law, Schedule 1 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014.
The Victorian Legal Admission Board's Guide for Applicants: Compliance Certificate advises that the assessment of an applicant's fitness and propriety for admission to practice will generally rely on:
- 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
Student Conduct Reports
The Victorian Legal Admissions Board (VLAB) requires all applicants to provide student conduct reports from each Australian academic institution where they have undertaken the areas required to attain their academic qualification for admission and completed the practical legal training prerequisite. Pursuant to the Guide for Applicants: Compliance Certificate, the report should disclose any incident of misconduct in respect of which the academic institution holds a record and must disclose academic and general misconduct whether or not found proven as a result of formal proceedings. Academic misconduct is defined as including, but not being limited "to plagiarism, impermissible collusion, cheating and any other conduct whereby the applicant has sought to obtain an impermissible academic advantage or other breach of the educational institution's rules." General misconduct is defined as including but not being limited "to offensive behaviour, property damage, sexual harassment, racial vilification or other breach of the rules of conduct of the educational institution." An applicant's duty of disclosure to the Board is not limited to matters which appear on the Student Conduct Report.
Each applicant for admission must provide an original National Police Certificate which has been issued in Australia. If an applicant has ever lived in a foreign jurisdiction for more than two years over the age of eighteen or has been admitted to practice in a foreign jurisdiction, a foreign police report from each of these jurisdictions must be provided.
Applicants must provide two character statements and, for applicants who have been admitted to practice in foreign jurisdictions, two foreign character statements.
Applicants must make full disclosure of any matters which may be relevant to their fitness and propriety to be admitted to the Australian legal profession and/or a reasonable applicant would regard as not being favourable to an assessment of whether they are a fit and proper person to be admitted to practice. To assist applicants in determining what matters should be disclosed in the Capacity Statement, the Victorian Legal Admissions Board advises that applicants must read the Disclosure Guidelines for Applicants for Admission to the Legal Profession.