Women lawyers and the professionalization of Pro Bono activities in large law firms
Law and Citizenship beyond the states - RCSL/SDJ Annual Meeting
The paper aims to describe the situation of pro bono in Portugal, focusing in the large law firm and the lawyers who work in this organizational environment. The idea of centring the work in the context of large law firm came from evidence in the field that shows this kind of organization has a profound impact on the kind of work lawyers do and in its professional values, but also because large law firms have been promoting structured programmes of pro bono and, at last, the Portuguese context has been extremely permeated by the influence of this specific type of practice. At this stage of the research the intention is more descriptive than comprehensive, even if we try to formulate some hypotheses to promote the discussion. The first hypothesis follows class theories and dominance theories and starts with the idea that the implementation of pro bono services can be considered as a form of preservation and sometimes a way to achieve new forms of power by the ruling class. The second hypothesis tries to engage organizational and individual effects of the activity of pro bono in the law firm and in lawyers. On an individual effect, we focus our attention on women lawyers. From the data collected one trend seems to appear, the presence, by large, of women in pro bono committees. One of the possible explanations advanced is related to the difficulties for women to get access to power positions inside the law firm. By dedicating their time to pro bono activities, women expect to receive recognition from their fellow partners and to improve their possibilities to have a successful career. Another type of explanation is related to class structure and the position occupied by women from the dominant class inside the family and in society. Until recent times, women we’re not expected to work or to have a professional career and so they engaged in different forms of charity work, usually related to organizations in the dependence of the catholic church. Working with poor communities or in their name was a way to maintain their privileges and reputation. Methodologically, we combine content analysis of law firms’ websites, reports on pro bono activities and corporate social responsibility (CSR), in-depth interviews with lawyers with the responsibility of implementing pro bono in their firms, a clearing house and nineteen young lawyers working in six large law firms in Portugal.
Classificação Fields of Science and Technology
- Sociologia - Ciências Sociais
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