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Abstract from

Professions and the Public Good

John Western is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Queensland.
Tony Makkai is Director of Research at the Australian Institute of Criminology and program director of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) Australia.
Kristin Natalier is currently completing her PhD in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Queensland.

Occupations commonly called the 'Professions' had their origins in the medieval guilds and the church. The professions first came to the attention of social scientists in the 1930s but it was not until the 1940s that the first serious attempt at analysing the nature of the professions occurred. Talcott Parsons argued that the professions were 'functional' for society. That is to say, they played a crucial role in ensuring social stability and growth. William Goode later argued that two characteristics, a prolonged specialised training in a body of abstract knowledge and a service orientation, were the distinguishing features of the professions. A more critical approach to the nature of the professions was a feature of later analyses. A concern for public welfare is reflected in much activity of a number of professional groups. Empirical studies suggest that a concern for public good is an important consideration in prompting young people to begin professional careers as well as affecting the career paths along which they move and the professional activities in which they engage. This article discusses these issues in the light of results of a 30-year empirical study of the professions in Australia.

Comment: Pro Bono and the Young Profession: A View from England and Wales
Lisa Webley
Comment: Doing Good - A Practitioner's Perspective
John Emerson
Comment: The Darker Side of the Profession?
Rob McQueen

(2001) 19 Law in Context 21
Keywords: Lawyering

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