Australian lawyers look outside the courtroomBy UNSW Mar 07, 2013 10:35AM UTC
The way societies deal with acts of crime, civil matters and corporate and commercial business transactions is undergoing considerable change. Legal systems and processes that have traditionally taken place inside the courtroom are moving outside, toward what some term ‘non-adversarial justice’ including mediation, alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice.
In a recent move by Australia’s Federal Government to foster what the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Australia’s Attorney-General, describes as a “meaningful dispute resolution culture” there has been an allocation of $1.3 billion in legal assistance geared towards alternative dispute resolution practices. In addition to funding changes, legislation has been introduced so that in certain federal matters people are encouraged to seek resolution prior to going to court. According to the Attorney-General “it promotes a change from the adversarial culture of dispute management, and requires lawyers to give clients information about alternatives to litigation.” This reflects a considerable change in Australia’s legal landscape.
Internationally, Australia’s recent dispute resolution agreement with Abu Dhabi continues to strengthen Australia’s reputation as a dispute resolution front runner. The formal agreement promotes the use of international arbitration to resolve business disputes. As the Gulf region grows economically and increases its trade with Australia, China, India, South Korea, and Japan, the role of dispute resolution has become ever-more critical. According to Australian Ambassador to UAE and Qatar, His Excellency Pablo Kang, “international companies often prefer to take their disputes to a neutral third party location and Australia, as an English-speaking country with first-rate legal infrastructure, is naturally a very attractive venue.”
In Australia and globally, even in cases of heinous crime, traditional punitive methods of dealing with offenders are also seeing a shift with the rise of restorative justice. Restorative justice aims to encourage a dialogue between victim and offender to seek a mutually beneficial outcome. It is intended to give victims a voice, whilst making offenders accountable for their actions, helping to break the cycle of crime. The process aims to repair the damage caused by anti-social behaviour by involving victims and bringing the justice process back to the community.
Currently in Australia, emphasis is on restorative justice conferencing in response to juvenile crime. Extending its use to deal with adult serious offenders is the focus of new research in a groundbreaking Australian Research Council Linkage Project. The project draws on the expertise of lawyers and criminologists at the University of New South Wales who are working collaboratively with Corrective Services NSW.
Now more than ever, the study of Criminal Justice and Criminology is critical to our understanding of how crime is defined and measured, why people commit crime and how society can best respond. The interdisciplinary nature of Criminal Justice and Criminology gives the study a holistic, contextual relevance which is an imperative when dealing with the complex and ever-changing nature of crime.
Programs such as the LLM (Criminal Justice and Criminology) and the Master of Criminal Justice and Criminology enable graduates (lawyers and non-lawyers) to specialise in contemporary criminal justice challenges across a diverse area (as far ranging as restorative justice, international criminal law, fraud and money-laundering, and human rights). In career terms, this specialisation advances options for lawyers in criminal legal practice or in the development of public policy, both nationally and internationally.
For non-law graduates the Master of Criminal Justice and Criminology qualification may build on existing criminal justice and criminological expertise or it may be the basis of developing a specialised expertise in criminal justice and criminological issues. Career opportunities arise in criminal justice-related environments such as in corrective services, court administration and in fields of health and welfare that intersect with criminal justice.
For those seeking a specialist education in alternative dispute resolution, the LLM (Dispute Resolution) and the Master of Dispute Resolution provide comprehensive, academically rigorous study in dispute resolution theory and practice. The programs enable students to develop skills in identifying the underlying issues that shape and inform a range of dispute resolution processes, and to think creatively about approaches and solutions to them.
The Master of Dispute Resolution program may be undertaken by law and non-law graduates who wish to focus on dispute resolution to support their practice; Alternative Dispute Resolution professionals who are seeking a specialist, postgraduate qualification in ADR; and those wishing to move into this growing professional area from the private and government sector.
Complementary legal processes and alternatives to litigation are on the rise and legal practitioners must keep pace with such changes. Undertaking further postgraduate study in these areas will not only add to the professional development of law and non-law graduates but will also ensure that the future of legal systems and processes reflect the needs of clients and the community, reducing pressure on courtrooms by avoiding reliance on costly, stressful and needless litigation.