The Expectations and Experiences of Working-Class Law Students at a 'New' University
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AbstractThis research investigates the experiences and expectations of working-class law students at a ‘new’ university. It critically examines the influence of cultural, social, linguistic and academic capital on working-class law students and their chances of success in the legal labour market. Statistics show that the number of working-class students beginning a legal education continues to grow despite the rising cost of qualification; continuing class prejudice and decline in number of training contracts and pupillages. With supply consistently exceeding demand in a middle-class dominated legal labour market, working-class students face ongoing and increasing difficulties in negotiating the barriers to entry, often with very little chance of success. This thesis presents the findings from a case study employing semi – structured interviews and focus groups used to collect qualitative data. Bourdieu’s theories on class, field and habitus are used to illuminate the findings and the data. Students describe their thoughts and experiences about their legal education and their attempts to enter the legal labour market; about why they chose to study law and why Middlebridge was their preferred university. The data suggests that the difficulties they face become apparent and their expectations begin to change as they progress through their legal education. However, instead of attempting to overcome the barriers they face, in the main, participants adjusted their sights downwards and were prepared to settle for employment at the lower-end of the legal labour market. This study suggests that universities like Middlebridge may, perhaps inadvertently, encourage inequality in law because those who enter with the lowest stock of capital benefit the least. Higher education masks how power within the legal profession is distributed, instead allowing students to believe it is based upon merit and ability.
Rahnavard, Daniel (2017) The Expectations and Experiences of Working-Class Law Students at a 'New' University. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.