LAW 458 - Legal Ethics

Credit points: 10 points
Offered: First and Second Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 2 hours per week
Course Coordinators: Professor Ron Paterson (S1) / Natalie Coates (S2)

Course description

This 10-point course has been introduced to fulfil a requirement imposed by the Council of Legal Education (CLE).

New Zealand law graduates must obtain a pass in a CLE approved Legal Ethics course, in addition to postgraduate professional legal studies, in order to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.

Although an elective course for the LLB, students intending to be admitted to the bar are required to take this course.

A student, who does not intend to go on to admission to the bar and does not wish to take Legal Ethics, will need to take an additional elective course. Overseas law graduates will generally be required to pass this course prior to admission in New Zealand.

The CLE has stipulated that the course involves teaching (a) the philosophical basis of legal professional ethics; and (b) the practical application of legal professional ethics; that the examination should appropriately test both components; and that at least one problem question is used in the examination to focus on the practical application of professional ethics.

Content outline

(a) A study of legal ethics and professional responsibility including an introduction to ethical analysis which examines various theories of ethics; the applicability of ethical analysis to legal practice; the concept of a profession and the ethical and professional duties of practitioners; and the wider responsibilities of lawyers in the community.

(b) A consideration of some of the most significant of the rules provided for in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008. Major topics include conflicts of interest (including information barriers/“Chinese walls”), rules on confidentiality, duties to the court over and above those owed to one’s client, duties of loyalty and fidelity, the “cab rank” rule, and the obligations imposed on prosecuting counsel.


  • 2,000 word assignment (40%)
  • Two-hour open-book exam (60%)

Open book means that you may, if you wish, bring into the exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes.