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Law student’s perceptions of emotional labour in the legal profession Dr Chalen Westaby 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Law student’s perceptions of emotional labour in the legal profession Dr Chalen Westaby 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Law student’s perceptions of emotional labour in the legal profession Dr Chalen Westaby 1

2 Research forms part of a LERN funded project considering the impact of Law Clinics on student’s understanding of emotional labour expectations Analysis of initial interviews with student’s provides an opportunity to examine participant’s latent and perceived understanding of emotional labour expectations In turn, this leads to consideration of usefulness of explicitly engaging students in a dialogue about emotional labour expectations in the legal profession before taking part in the Law Clinic. Introduction 2

3 Semi-structured interviews as nature of study lends itself to qualitative research design. Small sample size but rich data which is unavailable if using quantitative research methods Type of CLE: Law Clinic only (defined as in house 'live client' law clinic) Criteria used : length of time Law Clinic running geographical location whether Law Clinic forms part of degree Participants: law students taking part in a Law Clinic 23 participants, 4 institutions - 7 (SHU), 5 (UY), 6 (QM), 5(LSB) interviewed before undertaking Law Clinic (Sept.– Nov. 2012) and when almost complete (Mar. 2013) Analysis: Thematic analysis Research Design 3

4 Drivers of emotional labour: ‘feeling rules’ defined by societal, occupational and organisational norms (Hochschild, 1983; Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993) Definition: “the management of a way of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display…for a wage” (Hochschild, 1983, 7fn) How can it be produced?: Genuine emotional responses; Deep acting; Surface-acting Consequences of emotional labour: positive (e.g. task efficiency, wellbeing); negative (e.g. addiction, burnout, depression, stress, ) Emotional labour 4

5 “I think it comes from social [rules] that we have and from the way people are bred I suppose as well.” C1QM FIndings Sources 5 “ “I don’t know. I think it’s just built in with the profession over time.” C1SHU “I quite like to think I’m a people person and I’m quite approachable and everything else…I think that’s the kind of person I am actually.” E1UY Legal profession Innate Society/experience In part influenced by legal profession, which at times is highly significant, but other antecedents also viewed as instrumental.

6 Considered necessary by two thirds of participants: Rather to develop trust and confidence: Findings Empathy 6 “You don’t want to feel sorry for them or be seen to just treat them as if you feel sorry for them, but sort of be able to understand where they’re coming from, be able to sort of maybe put yourself in their shoes and, you know, see how it would feel to be in that situation.” A1LSB * Correlation between empathy not being mentioned and career choice. *Different meanings attached to empathy. * Incongruence between traditional conceptualisations of the practice of law and participant’s perceptions. “Try and understand what they’ve been through…understand their perspective, understand what they want from you as a client.” A1SHU Definition ‘ Deep acting’ but not an ‘ethic of care’

7 Detachment as counterpoint to empathy: Findings Empathy and Detachment: Striking the balance 7 “you need to be very understanding and be able to like understand where people are coming from and see their points of view, but I think it’s really important though to remain objective and you’ve got to kind of remain detached as well.” F1QM “To deliberate well — which requires both sympathy and detachment — one must therefore be able not only to think clearly but to feel in certain ways as well. The person who shows good judgment in deliberation will thus be marked as much by his affective dispositions as by his intellectual powers, and he will know more than others do because he feels what they cannot.” See also Kronman,1987, 858 The capacity to feel v The moderation of feeling Empathy as ‘deep acting’ or genuine emotional response?

8 Suppression and detachment: Findings Professionalism 8 “if a client tells you about what happened to him or something, like if you actually laughed at him or something, then that’s not very professional for them I think.” D1QM “Because when we talk about professionalism it’s a lot about objectivity. If you put in a lot of emotion when you’re advising clients, obviously your opinion would then become subjective and not really objective.” E1QM Rather than empathic engagement: “I know it sounds a bit silly, but you’ve really just got to be a professional and realise that you’ve got to be a bit more understanding than you’d be in everyday situations because it is your job.” E1SHU Emphasis on cognitive approach to lawyering skills as opposed to emotional approach.

9 Positive: Findings Consequences 9 “As far as I understand from everything I’ve learned over the past few years it’s just that they [client’s facing criminal charges] can run you down emotionally…I believe the burn-out rate for criminal defence attorneys is six years.” A1UY “your life as solicitor might be easier because, you know, you just deal with your work and then you put your emotions aside. So I think that might improve the efficiency of your work in some way.” E1QM “Well, I guess the consequences of that is if you actually succeed in displaying that and getting the results you were hoping for, then you have gratification and that’s quite a good emotional feeling to have.” B1UY Negative: “if you don’t have that limit for your client, as I said it could actually be a negative thing with you where you and your reputation might suffer if you…were too friendly with a client or you were too emotionally involved that you bypassed something because you were so emotionally involved”. A1QM “I wouldn’t ever want to become that detached and, you, know, not able to relate, not able to understand because that’s one of the big things about being a solicitor. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to develop a thick skin.” F1QM

10 When given the opportunity students are willing and able to discuss the emotional content of work in the legal profession Clinical legal education and particularly Law Clinics provide opportunity to begin a dialogue about such skills, including the emotional skills they already possess as well as the emotional challenges they may face as lawyers. Also provide forums to consider the potential consequences of performing emotional labour Discussion 10

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