456.2 The progressive democratization of higher education and the challenges to social closure of legal professions

Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:15 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Mónica SANTOS , Instituto de Sociologia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
The present paper aims to contribute to the articulation between the graduates’ transition studies and the sociology of professions, starting from the analysis of the restructuring of policies, labor markets and the higher education democratization that, in different ways, shape the professions and career paths of Law graduates.

In the last three decades, university education expansion, particularly in Law area (known to be highly selective in terms of social class),  both in terms of courses and vacancies number, allowed the widespread access to higher education, greatly increasing the relative and absolute volume of these graduates. Simultaneously, there have been profound recompositions of labour markets and occupational structure in legal professions, changes which are associated with the emergency of economic markets globalization, such as the growing of salaried professionals and the emergence of law firms, the privatization of sectors formerly under state domain and the spread of atypical forms of employment, visible in progressive flexibility and job insecurity. Considering these scenarios, we try to reflect about the ways in which different actors, such as State and Law professional groups, historically associated with social and economic privileges, a specialized body of knowledge, autonomy and professional exclusivity, experience and respond to these changes and reconfigurations. In other words, we try to understand how higher education democratization affects the monopolistic strategies of legal professions.

This reflection will benefit from the confrontation of different sources of analysis and its preliminary results: analysis of statistics and indicators about the evolution of graduates; content analysis of institutional and political documents that take into account these changes and trends and the strategies promoted to face them.

With this paper it is expected to foster a broader theoretical discussion about the contexts and challenges faced by legal professions, while attending to the specificities of the Portuguese experience.