Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty of Law
Sharp, Cassandra E, Becoming a lawyer: the transformation of student identity through stories, PhD thesis, Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, 2006. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/838
To study law is to invite change. Not just change, but transformation. In the process of becoming lawyers, students interpret stories of law, transform meanings about law, and construct legal identity. Desperate to make sense of the world in which they will one day inhabit, first year law students draw on resources from two cultural realms: the legal and the social. In particular, they use popular stories as one resource to interpret what it means to be lawyer, and as a result students occupy a central place amid the intersection of law, society and fiction. This thesis is concerned with the interpretation and transformation of meaning about law and lawyering within the social and academic context of law school. Of particular concern are the stories that are interpreted and produced through the medium of television and within the context of law school. This thesis does not engage with the familiar debate over the way in which law is represented in popular culture, rather it offers a new scholarly perspective on how students use these images. Specifically, this thesis examines the significance of stories in students’ construction of identity. It does so by empirically analysing the ‘talk’ of focus groups. These groups were comprised of first year law students, and methodologically sought to address the use of stories within meaning-making processes and the construction of identity. Drawing from the analysis of these groups, the thesis shows that first year law is transformative moment in the students’ identity construction; and that students use popular stories to interpret (and then retell) the ways in which they view a career in law. It further demonstrates that in their storied responses to popular culture students are grappling with notions of ethics and desperate to become ethically aware. The thesis concludes by arguing that student discussions reflect the imbrication of stories, ethics and identity, and for this reason, urges that stories be given explicit pedagogic value within the law school curriculum.
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