The use of sociological ideas by practicing and academic lawyers

A socio-legal study by Julia, Michael, Tanya and Tehseen

Overview

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Interviewed 4 practicing and 4 academic lawyers General aim: Contributing to the literature on the emerging field of socio-legal studies (Publication forthcoming) Snowball sampling Semi-structured interviews Diversity of samples

Question 1

“What path did you follow to get to your present legal career?” “Why did you choose to go to academia rather than practice (or vice versa)” “What field of law did you chose to specialise in and why”

Findings
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All took law undergraduate degrees Apart from A4, all initially had the intention to practice P4 and A4 went back into teaching having reached all they could in practice

Question 2

“What do you think should be the major developments in law over the next few years” “What do you think are currently the most contentious issues in the substantive law and how do you think law should develop in this area” “What developments do you hope to see in this area”

Findings

Analysis according to 4 criteria:
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Interpretation of “law” Degree of specificity Degree of normativity Whether elaboration needed prompting

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No clear cut distinction between academics and practitioners Academics less broad in their answers Seemed that academic lawyers spoke less broadly than profesionnals

Question 3

“How do you think the teaching of law has developed over the last few years” “How do you think it should change over the next few years”

Findings
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Academics focussed on realities of teaching Practitioners talked about teaching preparation for reality of working Academics and Practitioners all recognised importance of broader social issues concerning the operation of law Practitioners in the social field brought up socio-legal issues before we mentioned it

Question 4

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“Are you familiar with the field of sociolegal studies at all?” “What do you think about it?” “Does it have a place in legal analysis / development?” “Should it be included in the teaching of law?”

Findings

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Academics had all heard of it, only half of the professionals had All thought it was an important subject Methodological validity?

Conclusions
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Null hypothesis supported Difference in areas participants talked about but similarly concerned with sociological issues Structure worked really well Recording method (Handwritten v Recording) Consistency between interviewers More background research needed

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Future research
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More detailed research Larger pool to investigate intricacies of differences further

Last words and self-affirmations
“I think [socio-legal studies] should be [included in all teaching of the law]. But, by doing that, you have to bear in mind that people are frightened of subjects that questions the status quo. And I think if the social legal studies are taught well, it questions lots of the status quo.”

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