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A Case of Love and Hate: Four Faces of Alienation Among Young Lawyers in France and Switzerland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2020


Over the past three decades, the legal profession has experienced globalization, the rise of mega-law firms, and intensified competition. These transformations have been associated with declining career perspectives, the hyper-specialization of legal work, and increased levels of stress. We argue that the concept of alienation offers valuable insights into these changes by providing an original analysis of the objective and subjective experiences of early career lawyers at work. We elaborate a multidimensional typology that covers the content and retributions of legal work. By categorizing experiences of alienation along these two axes, we identify four ideal-types of alienation: powerlessness, purposelessness, time deprivation, and unfairness. Based on qualitative studies carried out in France and Switzerland, we illustrate how young lawyers differentially experience each type of alienation, according to gender, status, and firm size. We conclude by suggesting how these factors combine to produce long-terms effects, such as the high female attrition rates observed in the Swiss and French legal professions.

© 2020 American Bar Foundation

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