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Title: The professional identity of solicitors : stereotypes and stigma, dirty work and disidentification
Author: Diggines, Fleur
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2009
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For many centuries the legal profession has maintained a distinct image secured by institutional, organizational and symbolic boundaries. The thesis acknowledges that these boundaries have weakened over time. Of interest to this thesis is one symbolic boundary that can maintain distinction: the professional identity of members of the legal profession. The research has at its focus the identity of a specific group of legal professionals; namely, solicitors in mid-market law firms. The research examines the central constructs of solicitor identity and the dominant influences upon this identity. Answers to this help shape a contemporary account of these professionals. The empirical study begins with the proposition that social identity theory is a viable means through which identity formation can be understood. This is in recognition that membership of a valued group facilitates the formation and preservation of a unique identity. Semi-structured interviews allow access to solicitors’ accounts of their professional identities. The research reveals that respondents struggle to express their own professional identity and their limited reflections lack positive overtones. There is instead a greater concern for outsiders’ adverse opinions about solicitors and more generally the legal profession. Additionally, the research uncovers that the most dominant influences upon respondents’ identity are negative and threatening ones. Processes and mechanisms used by respondents to protect themselves from identity threats were also unveiled; namely, disidentification, displacement of blame, and formulating an identity around ‘what one is not’. The thesis highlights too how membership of the legal profession now has little value and saliency as an identity category for the respondents. Finally, the thesis contributes an empirical study on the under-researched area of solicitor identity to organization studies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain) (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; K Law (General)