A positive professional ideology for legal DR practice should incorporate a genuine fidelity to the good of DR. This ‘good’ derives from the values and goals of DR that are firmly situated within the framework of the rule of law in Australia’s Western liberal democracy. Core DR values include justice, party autonomy and community. Lawyers practising DR need to be professionally committed to working to realise these values across the matrix of DR processes, as they constitute an anchor of belief and perspective, and represent the grounding positive contribution that lawyers as DR practitioners make to society. DR values should influence professional lawyering and decision-making, guiding judgments as to what is acceptable and ethical. DR process goals — procedural and substantive justice, impartiality, self-determination and participation, and access to justice — represent the procedural objectives for putting such values into practice. Together DR values and goals provide the foundations of DR as a societal ‘good’, and form an ethical, just foundation for a positive professional ideology for lawyers.
Parties who seek the services of DR legal practitioners are almost always in a position where they are struggling to manage or resolve their disputes themselves. This is why they need access to legal DR expertise. They find themselves without the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve effective dispute resolution, or conflict management, on their own. Being in dispute or conflict is often a difficult, stressful and disheartening time for people. Through a fidelity to the good of DR, lawyers not only contribute constructively to society but they can also achieve positive interpersonal and individual change for their clients. This positive impact has the potential to extend to healing, wholeness, harmony and optimal human functioning.
It is difficult to measure or quantify the exact actual benefit of DR practice for societal harmony, for legal certainty, for the quality of business and personal relationships, and for the well-being of citizens. It is nonetheless our contention that lawyers practising DR are, by putting the values and goals of DR into action, contributing to and sustaining, an inherent public good.
These thoughts have been adapted from Chapter 13 of Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field, Australian Dispute Resolution: Law and Practice (Lexis Nexis, 2017). We welcome your responses to them.
Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field
Acknowledgement of image: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=images+for+fidelity&rlz=1C1CHZL_enAU769AU769&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjF3sen79rdAhXY7WEKHdGNB5gQ7Al6BAgAEA0&biw=853&bih=386#imgdii=MAkGkWr9xEeZIM:&imgrc=EEsqx8d9gM18PM: