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The information gap

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Professor Hilary Sommerlad wrote that ‘workplaces are the “crucibles” of identity formation’. Comparative research being undertaken provides perspectives on the extent to which Australian law schools are crucibles of professional identity formation, and to what degree the themes and messages projected by a select category of mid-tier English law firm graduate recruiters influence how perceptions of career success and identity are shaped and measured.

The Australian qualitative study was launched in 2013 to explore and analyse the attitudes of LLB and JD students, practical legal training students, and early career commercial lawyers, to determine if attitudes towards commercial practise were to some extent influenced by the ‘information gap’ in law school. The research found that the information gap, arising from the perceived lack of diversity in career options presented at law school, can adversely impact on the wellness of some students, and have lasting consequences on their professional identity as they practice commercial law. Drawing on focus groups and semi-structured interviews of the research participants, the researchers recognised, within the Bourdieusian theoretical framework, how the participant law students and lawyers desired to redefine or expand the law school field within which students are exposed and what they observe as a narrow range of career paths not truly reflective of their values and the broader career field.

Meanwhile, the UK research project explores, again within the Bourdieusian theoretical framework, recruiter perceptions of the career paths open to today’s law graduates. While the existing academic discourse has focused primarily on the ‘traditional’ routes to professional qualification such as the training contract or pupillage, the impact of factors such as globalisation, the commodification of legal services, cuts to public funding and increased competition appears to be the emergence of a much more stratified legal profession. In this stratified model, fee-earning work need not be carried out by solicitors but is increasingly delegated to paralegals, licenced conveyancers, claims managers or legal executives. Recruiters therefore occupy a highly influential position as gatekeepers to the legal profession, deciding how many and which candidates progress to admission to the legal profession. This qualitative study from 2017 uses semi-structured interviews with a purposively selected sample of law firm decision makers (partners and HR directors) to explore participants’ views of the career routes open to graduates. The study reveals an emerging information gap about the longer-term consequences of graduate lawyers accepting a paralegal role.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducating for Well-Being in Law
Subtitle of host publicationPositive Professional Identities and Practice
EditorsCaroline Strevens, Rachael Field
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter6
Number of pages15
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781351104401
ISBN (Print)9781138477568
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameEmerging Legal Education
PublisherRoutledge

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