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Continuity and change: the professional lives and culture of self-employed barristers in England and Wales

Goulandris, A. (2016). Continuity and change: the professional lives and culture of self-employed barristers in England and Wales. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis explores how self-employed barristers responded to the reforms that have reshaped the profession in the last 25 years, to assess if and how their professional lives and perceptions of Bar identity and culture have changed as a result. The loss of its advocacy monopoly, cuts to legal aid, the liberalisation of the rules governing the Bar’s working structures and external regulation go to the core of the reforms. It is a qualitative study, based on semi-structured interviews with barristers and chambers staff, together with observation in chambers, at court and at informal and formal Bar events over a period of 18 months, triangulated by in-depth reading of the trade press, the national media, social media and official pronouncements from the profession’s representative and regulatory bodies for the same period.

The study takes into account the literature on the sociology of the professions and tests its applicability to the Bar’s distinct and idiosyncratic structures and ways of working. It considers Abbott’s (1988) professional development thesis, which focuses on jurisdictional battles between professions for control over tasks and the attendant changes that emerge as a result of such conflicts. It further considers a range of studies on the concept of professionalism and, with reference to the legal profession, how it has been developed in the light of commercial, regulatory and managerial reform. It concludes that much of that literature focuses either on other professions or on the solicitor branch of the legal profession, which are different in structure, governance and professional culture and is thus not always applicable.

The findings develop existing research on the Bar or create new knowledge and point to a more commercially oriented and management driven Bar. The chambers model has evolved significantly, as have practitioners’ views and methods of seeking work, in an effort to be more customer-centred and competitive. Regulatory reforms have reshaped chambers’ organisation and accountability, as well as entry, selection and training processes. Pupillage numbers are down, obliging prospective new entrants to be even more highly qualified, motivated and entrepreneurial to get in. The dramatic reduction in legal aid, together with a decrease in work has resulted in a two-tier profession, with something of a winner/loser dichotomy. Although interviewees share a strong sense of professional identity and culture, there are those that feel the profession has fragmented.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
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