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Kristen Dawes
Mar 8, 2020
The struggles and resiliency of the NSW Law Society
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This article examines the 'true' nature of a contemporary professional association, reporting on an interview study of the New South Wales Law Society. Once the central symbol of professionalism, there is little empirical research on the workings of associations today. Existing research questions both the propriety and the enduring strength of associational power. Associations have been shown to prioritise their professional 'projects', or strategies to secure status rewards, over public functions. Recent writing has argued that, as 'inflexible' organisations, associations have been unable to adapt to changing conditions in order to continue their collective enterprise. This article provides a wholistic account, showing that the association is a hybrid organisation with several distinct sets of features, values and outcomes — even contradictory ones. The findings reveal an association challenged to defend its role in professional knowledge, group cohesion, government relations and regulatory autonomy. However, we capture its new and renewed 'projects': a membership project with a profit-seeking orientation, as well as rehabilitated public and collective projects. The analysis contributes to the discussion on professional decline, supporting arguments for continuity, adaptation and alignment. This study suggests that contemporary associations, especially those retaining some formal regulatory power, are more complex, resilient organisations than typically depicted.

The New South Wales Law Society has been presented as a well-established organisation. Although the association was shown to face certain crucial struggles, the Law Society seems mostly resilient and confident in achieving its organisational goals and future directions.

Moreover, it seems apparent that the NSW Law society while on its way to becoming a profit-seeking organisation, maintains efforts to rehabilitate its public service, as well as maintain its regulatory commitments. The leaders definitely play a crucial role in sustaining the agility and adaptive nature of the group.