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Dealing with Compassion at Work. Strategic Reflexivity among Court Lawyers

Janine Barbot a,*, Nicolas Dodier b

a Centre de recherche, médecine, sciences, santé, santé mentale, société (Cermes3), UMR INSERM-CNRS-Université Paris Descartes-EHESS, 7, rue Guy Môquet, 94801 Villejuif Cedex, France
b Laboratoire interdisciplinaire d’études sur les réflexivités (LIER), Institut Marcel Mauss, UMR EHESS-CNRS, 10, rue Monsieur Le Prince, 75006 Paris, France
* Corresponding author.

Available online 6 November 2015 on Science direct
doi : 10.1016/j.soctra.2015.09.009

Abstract
The article explores the way in which professionals who are exposed to testimonies of suffering manage to integrate compassion into their work. Research has shown how compassion is a problematic emotion for such professionals, and has identified the forms of reflexivity that they employ to handle the tensions that such feelings arouse. By examining legal work — in particular the practices of lawyers in a criminal trial where a large number of victims are present — the article makes a new contribution to the study of compassion in the workplace. It identifies the normative repertoire which lawyers use to construct an appropriate attitude towards victims and analyses how, within the framework of strategic reflexivity, lawyers mobilise this repertoire to suit the particular interests they are representing at the trial.

Keywords : Normative repertoire ; Compassion ; Victims ; Lawyers ; Legal work ; Trial.

Article Outline

  • 1. Compassion at work
    • 1.1. Questions of terminology
    • 1.2. A problematical moral feeling
    • 1.3. Organisational conditions for integrating compassion
    • 1.4. Perspectives opened up through the study of judicial work
  • 2. Analytical framework, fieldwork and method
    • 2.1. An approach through the study of the normative repertoire of lawyers
    • 2.2. A case study : the growth hormone trial
    • 2.3. Method of analysis for the pleadings
  • 3. The principle of humanity
    • 3.1. Putting oneself across as a “humane” lawyer
    • 3.2. A test of humanity for the defendants
    • 3.3. A test of humanity for the plaintiffs
  • 4. The principle of objectivity
    • 4.1. Rupture with the moment of humanity
    • 4.2. Continuity with the moment of humanity
  • 5. The principle of balancing the suffering inflicted upon victims
    • 5.1. Suffering consubstantial with the trial
    • 5.2. The avoidable suffering of a properly conducted trial
  • 6. The therapeutic finality of criminal trials
    • 6.1. Cautionary statements concerning the compassionate drift of the legal system
    • 6.2. Appeasement of suffering “in addition”
  • 7. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du travail
Volume 57, Supplement 1, November 2015
Translated by Christopher Hinton