Legal professional identity formation and the representation of legal professionals in classroom talk.
The focus of this study is the formation of legal professional identity and the manner and extent to which representations of legal professionals in classroom talk could feature in and be studied as part of this process. Eclipsed for many years by the need to teach students to ‘think like lawyers’, professional identify formation is increasingly acknowledged as a legitimate concern of legal educationalists. This entails expanding the sphere of legal education beyond the cognitive aspects of the discipline of law to encompass inculcation of the purposes and values of the profession but also, more broadly, an appreciation of the forms of power legal professionals exercise, the forms of work they undertake, the relationships they establish and maintain, and the social profile of the profession they advocate for or accept. The study assumes an understanding of legal professional identity formation as a pervasive and implicit process of socialization that occurs irrespective of whether professional identity has been posited as a particular pedagogical object or not. It puts forward the thesis that representations of legal professionals in classroom talk constitute part of the socialization process. It presents a theoretical model for understanding the significance of such representations in processes of identity formation, linking them to an understanding of ‘identity regulation’ that revolves around the concepts ‘role’ and ‘discourse’. It further invokes the resources of critical discourse analysis and, in particular, the work of Van Leeuwen, to develop a set of appropriate analytical codes modeled on key elements of social practice for analyzing representational meanings relating to legal professionals in classroom talk. The development of the codes is undertaken through an iterative process that engages with a complete, verbatim transcription of classroom talk in an introductory six-‐month course on law at a tertiary institution. The study concludes that a discursive, analytical approach to studying representational meanings relating to legal professionals in classroom talk and, in particular, a micro-‐discursive point of entry modeled on key elements of social practice, is useful and appropriate for apprehending the richness of the representational meanings. Such an approach allows for a grounded identification of themes that can then be compared to claims made in the literature on legal professionalism and the teaching of legal ethics. It also concludes that because the representation of legal professionals in classroom talk overlaps with the power relations of the classroom, they should be regarded as a significant source of identity regulation and thus used in a manner that is both reflective and constructive.
Identity formation, Professional identity, Legal professionalism, Critical discourse analysis, Representation