I thought it was fitting to start my Mediator’s Blog with a few thoughts about about being a new lawyer.

Canadian professor Julie Macfarlane’s book “The New Lawyer” is one of the many things I read during my dispute resolution studies at UNSW.

It has made me think about the future of the legal profession and made me think about how I approach litigation generally. It is one of the things which has prompted me to pursue opportunities as a professional mediator.

What is a new lawyer?

We all know that there are high costs, delays, and an emotional toll on clients associated with litigation. These factors are challenging the traditional adversarial model of legal practice and there is a growing emphasis on settlement and conflict resolution. Clients and lawyers are seeking alternative paths to resolving disputes.

This changes the way that lawyers interact with clients. There is a need for lawyers to adapt to a world where practical problem-solving is increasingly valued over lengthy adversarial processes. This new approach requires lawyers to actively seek negotiation opportunities, assess various dispute resolution methods, and collaborate closely with clients to develop strategies that aim for optimal settlements as a viable alternative to trial.

As a result, the new lawyer’s role extends beyond courtroom battles to encompass skills in negotiation, mediation, collaborative practice, and restorative justice. New lawyers need to be problem solvers, strategic thinkers, adept negotiators, and continuously updated on conflict resolution techniques. Macfarlane discusses the concept of conflict resolution advocacy and the evolving role of the new lawyer.

Of course, these ideas challenge traditional notions of legal education and legal practice. These new lawyer “conflict managers” need to be able to skilfully navigate both adversarial and non-adversarial approaches.

Legal education and professional development to adapt and change to equip lawyers with the necessary skills to meet the evolving needs of clients and society. Certainly when I was a law student 40 years ago, legal education primarily focused on rights-based approaches to dispute resolution rather than emphasising effective negotiation skills and the benefits of various consensual dispute resolution methods. I know that things are changing and certainly at postgraduate level there are whole masters’ degrees in dispute resolution.

It’s also my view (probably controversially) that life experience and age bring perspective into how lawyers view the needs of their clients and perceive the opportunities for flexible settlement proposals.

The role of the new lawyer also brings ethical complexities with it.

The new lawyer will need to carefully evaluate settlement options. One of the duties of the new lawyer is to prevent clients from being coerced into settlements that do not align with their best interests. Vulnerable parties will need to be protected in the resolution process. This highlights the need for informed decision-making.


“The New Lawyer” highlights the changes that settlement and ADR have on the future of the legal profession. Although I have been doing adversarial commercial litigation for decades, I consider myself to be a new lawyer. I bring life experience in both law and in my previous career (as an industrial chemist) to all of my matters. This follows me into my mediation practice and the way that I can facilitate negotiations between disputing parties.

If you want to read the book (and I think all lawyers should) it’s readily available at the usual online sources.