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A Bernsteinian analysis of the interplay between legal knowledge and the legal professional in university law schools in Yorkshire and Alberta: rule of Law or Rule of Lawyers?

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Jen Gibbons
Publication date2020
Number of pages170
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores University-level legal education in England (specifically Yorkshire) using a theory-oriented case study method as a way to analyse and develop to a new context a suite of concepts derived from the work of Basil Bernstein, including classification and framing, the pedagogic device and pedagogic identities. It uses Canada (specifically Alberta) as a comparator research site using a structured, focused comparison approach (George & Bennett, 2005). The research was triggered by concerns about the impact on University-level legal education of the ongoing changes to the entry level qualifications for the legal profession in England that have been initiated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and the rapid expansion in the numbers of students studying law. The research is centred on a macro-level study of the interplay between the legal professional and his/her documentary and visual representation and the classification and framing of legal knowledge in university law schools in England. It identifies, illustrates and analyses some of the nuances in the interplay between the actors and substantive knowledge base in what Bernstein refers to as the Official Recontextualising Field (ORF) and the Pedagogic Recontextualising Field (PRF) of legal education. It develops Bernstein’s concepts in the context of legal education, most notably through analysis of what is referred to here as a Specialised Recontextualising Field (SRF), which incorporates the contemplation of a range of specialised discourses in legal education. This leads to the development of specialised theoretical identities that emerged from analysis of the research data. These are referred to here as the Democratic Intellectual, the Democratic Professional and the Democratic Technologist. The key findings are discussed leading to proposals for their use in legal education curriculum design and policy development.