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The Changing Occupational Terrain of the Legal Aid Lawyer in Times of Precariousness

Cooke, Emma S. (2019) The Changing Occupational Terrain of the Legal Aid Lawyer in Times of Precariousness. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:80378)

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The cuts to legal aid provision since 2012 present a threat to traditional legal aid practice in England and Wales. This thesis examines the changing professional identity of civil and criminal legal aid lawyers in light of their shrinking industry and significantly diminishing funds courtesy of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012). Adopting a threefold (macro-meso-micro) approach, this thesis explores the social milieu of the legal aid world in terms of personnel, modes of operation, and positionality within the legal profession as a whole. The thesis is based on an ethnography of legal aid lawyers, with data collected over the period of a year (2016-2017) across various locations, accompanied by a collection of 30 semi- structured interviews to capture the lived experiences of those at the front line of legal aid provision. The findings indicate that the legal aid world operates as a 'profession within a profession' given its multifaceted, unique and somewhat marginalised status which contrasts its private counterparts. Although the profession has become increasingly precarious, this research demonstrates how lawyers compensate for this by retaining their resilience and demonstrating altruism towards their clients. The thesis identifies a 'shared orientation' as a form of working culture which has multiple functions. Firstly, it captures the cultural heterogeneity of legal aid lawyers and the multifarious character of the work. Secondly, the notion of shared orientation likewise functions as a form of cohesive coping mechanism in response to cuts to legal aid funding. Vitally, the shared orientation offers unity as a way of functioning in an otherwise fragmented profession. This thesis therefore contributes to a wider analysis of what it means to be a precarious professional in the 21st century, and the ability of those to continue working for the 'social good'.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Duggan, Marian
Thesis advisor: Vickerstaff, Sarah
Thesis advisor: Bradley, Kate
Uncontrolled keywords: Lawyer, legal Aid, LASPO, Occupational Culture, Shared Orientation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: [UNSPECIFIED] Economic and Social Research Council
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2020 14:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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