On the consequences of defensive professionalism: Recent changes in the legal labour process

Daniel Muzio*, Stephen Ackroyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study of change in the legal profession argues that governmental policies, combined with economic recession and supply-side considerations, have led to decline in the legal profession's historical performance, and a defensive strategy which preserves the status and earning power of equity partners. Related responses include a drive towards organizational consolidation, a long-term increase in the numbers of salaried solicitors, and fewer non-fee-earning support staff. This involves a shift from external (or occupational) closure regimes, which sanction entry to the profession, to internal (or organizational) mechanisms, which regulate progression through the professional hierarchy. The paper challenges hypotheses of deprofessionalization and managerialization, and lends empirical support to Freidson's continuity thesis whereby reorganization is safeguarding traditional privileges and rewards for certain sections of the profession at the cost of a progressive process of intra-occupational stratification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-642
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

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