The 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 [2002] VSC 140 at [10]:

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.