Practising Professionalism: Observations from an Empirical Study of New Australian Lawyers

Legal Ethics 15 (1):29-55 (2012)
Abstract
Many suggest that professionalism as traditionally understood is all but dead in today's legal marketplace. Some scholars believe that 'professional' orientations based on managerialism and influenced by profitability have seen the demise of the lawyer's traditional professional identity. This paper argues otherwise. A pilot qualitative study of new Australian lawyers indicates that professional ideals can still flourish. Participants both understood the traditional ideals and sought to incorporate them in their own developing sense of professionalism. This paper reviews the experiences of 11 early-career Australian lawyers in their first year of practice. Preliminary results suggest that certain experiences are crucial to developing and retaining a broad sense of professionalism: finding a balance between autonomous/independent work and close mentoring and supervision; realizing that legal practice is not merely a rational and rule-based activity, but one that involves ongoing uncertainty, including the uncertainly of dealing with 'real' people displaying 'real' emotions; and reaching a comfortable 'value convergence' between one's own values and those modelled by colleagues
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