Overcoming Old Divisions: Winds of Change in the Italian Legal Professions

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Luca VERZELLONI, Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES), Portugal
Where are the Italian legal professions heading? How are changing the relationships among the different legal professions? What are they trying to do to reaffirm their role in the society? The Italian legal professions – more than other occupations based on a complex set of practical skills and specialist knowledge – are living a period of profound change. For a variety of factors, the old ways to conceive and to exercise the legal professions are no longer capable of responding adequately to the needs of people, especially in terms of guarantee and protection of their rights. The operating difficulties of the Italian judicial system are accelerating these transformations. These problems have, in fact, a direct impact on the activity of all the professionals and, at the same time, they affect the social credibility of the legal professions and the citizens’ confidence in the legal system. The article will focus on the Italian case and, in particular, intends to present and critically discuss the phenomenon of the “Observatories of civil justice”: interprofessional groups that have spontaneously developed in various Italian judicial offices, in order to define some common solutions to the courts’ problems. The hypothesis at the basis of this paper is that the existence of the Observatories is a signal of an epochal change, which is developing in the Italian judicial system: the overcoming of the old divisions, especially between the two main “protagonists” of the jurisdiction – lawyers and judges. The paper bases its arguments on the results of a long period of empirical research, conducted with qualitative methods. The case, one of a kind, will be the occasion to analyse many issues under discussion within the broad debate of sociology of professional groups.