Complexity, Uncertainty and Rigidity in the Transformation of Advice Work in the United Kingdom

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 4C G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Peter SANDERSON, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom
This paper seeks to explore some of the uncertainties and rigidities encroaching on the professional activity of providing legal advice to more marginalised citizens in austere times.  Uncertainty, or indeterminacy (Jamous and Peloille, 1970) in the scope and character of poor people’s justiciable problems, exacerbated as they are by complex problem clusters, policy shifts, and unpredictable decision making by administrative tribunals, is one of the foundation rationales for the provision of expert advice.  As is the case with other public service professions (Traynor et al 2010), the extent of this indeterminacy is being eroded by the adoption of more rigid controls over the mode of professional advice delivery, originating either in concerns about service quality, or downward pressure on costs resulting from liberalisation of markets.  A significant response by organisations employing professional providers of legal advice has been to explore the scope provided by technological innovation for the decomposition of legal knowledge (Susskind, 2013) and its embedding in telephone and web-based advice delivery systems.  This paper explores the issues associated with the transformation of advice practice, in terms of its capacity to replicate the functions fulfilled by face-to-face models of advice delivery, for example in dealing with complex problem clusters, and in terms of a discursive shift from a commitment to outcomes to a model of advice consumption. The implications of these changes for professionals’ reflexive conception of their role is also considered.  The paper uses material from research projects in the UK over 10 years exploring the transformation of the landscape of advice for marginalised citizens.