Are Lawyers Alienated Workers?

Daniel Carl Newman


This paper applies Marx’ theory of alienation to the work of criminal legal aid lawyers to suggest that the lawyers might be best understood as alienated workers. It reports findings from an ethnographic study of the lawyer-client relationship in England and Wales whereby lawyers were seen to take a diminished professional role characterised by the routine processing of guilty pleas wherein lawyers lost respect for themselves as well as the clients they worked for. The concept of alienation is put forward as a valuable analytical tool for understanding this vision of a substandard legal practice, which may have potential for moving forward future debates on whether the lawyer-client relationship serves access to justice and, if not, how it might be improved to better do so.

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