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Title: The changing occupational terrain of the legal aid lawyer in times of precariousness
Author: Cooke, Emma S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8511 1067
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2019
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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'.
Supervisor: Duggan, Marian ; Vickerstaff, Sarah ; Bradley, Kate Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General)