International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 23, No 2 (2016)

The pragmatics of legal advice services in a community legal centre in Australia: domination or facilitation?

Cristy Dieckmann, Isolda Rojas-Lizana
Issued Date: 21 Nov 2016


There are 220 community legal centres in Australia, many of which work on a selfhelp model that entails volunteer lawyers giving advice to clients who will then under take their own legal work. This discourse analytic study explores the discursive interaction between volunteer lawyers and clients in a community legal centre in Brisbane. The analysis investigates the presence of authoritarian versus participatory strategies in order to look at the type of power relation present in their interaction. Two discursive features that characterise lawyer–client conversations were identified as being significant in this type of free advice session: register (formal-technical/informal) and interruptions. The results show that the lawyers tend to make less use of power-related strategies than has been seen in previous studies. Instead, they use a discourse of facilitation (participatory discourse) that is expressed in their register in the form of politeness strategies, use of colloquial language and expressions of support; and in their interruptions in the form of co operative overlapping speech. It is discussed that the use of these discursive features fits with the nature of these particular interactions. That is, the legal advice offered in community legal centres could be viewed as more of an ‘expert advice giving’ rather than a traditional lawyer–client interaction.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v23i2.20291


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