Negotiating What Makes a Lawyer LLM Students’ Self-perception and the Quest for Professional Identity
Małgorzata Joanna Adamczyk
The purpose of this chapter1 is to present the results of a qualitative study of LLM international students’ perception of the nature of legal professions and legal professionals. Presented research is ethnographic with nethnographic elements, combining unstructured interviews with participant observation and shadowing. The data was gathered among international students of the LLM program at an American Ivy League university in between 2011 and 2013. During the project it was found that many of the interviewed students have been struggling with defining themselves as lawyers. At the same time, they did not struggle that much with stereotypes about lawyers as a group. Therefore the concept of identity work as a tool to reconcile self-perception with professional culture – and thus to negotiate one’s professional identity – was used to interpret gathered narratives.
„In the past, when I’ve talked to audiences like this, I’ve often started off with a lawyer joke, a complete caricature of a lawyer who’s been nasty, greedy and unethical. But I’ve stopped that practice. I gradually realized that the lawyers in the audience didn’t think the jokes were funny and the non-lawyers didn’t know they were jokes“ – Marc Galanter quotes how Chief Justice William Rehnquist opened one of his speeches at the University of Virginia Law School in 1997 (Galanter, 2005, p. 3). Using jokes about their profession, constantly told and retold by lawyers, American scholar determines a „register of perceptions“ helping to understand lawyers’ professional identity as it is defined...
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