From Litigator to Researcher: the Burdens and Benefits of Moving between the Profession and the Academy
A researcher who understands litigation practice and is connected to the profession has advantages in terms of accessing and interpreting the litigation setting. However, the knowledge and connections complicate relationships to research participants. This article considers a research method designed to provide insight into how litigants in person conduct litigation and how the professional participants (lawyers, court staff and judges) respond to them. The researcher’s previous roles of judges’ clerk and lawyer helped secure access and understanding but created issues with recognising and managing participant reactivity, maintaining critical distance, as well as an ethical and personal struggle in watching a legal case heading for disaster. The research site, the ‘large village’ of New Zealand with its tight-knit closely networked legal profession, compounded these issues. The article concludes that despite these difficulties, watching litigation with anthropological curiosity resulted not only in insights about the research questions but also the importance in litigation practice of engaging with the client’s social world.
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Keywords: Litigation; Legal research; Legal profession
Research Type: Journal Article