London’s legal elite: recruitment through cultural capital and the reproduction of social exclusivity in City professional service fields
The authors examine the ways in which recruitment and selection processes facilitate the reproduction of elites and elite cultures within City law firms. The research is based upon original research carried out during 2009, consisting of in-depth semistructured interviews, semiotic and content analyses of recruitment materials and websites, and the analysis of publicly available data demonstrating the educational backgrounds of lawyers practising in the City. By deploying Bourdieusian concepts including the field, ‘doxa’, cultural capital, and habitus, the authors show that, in the firms studied, homologous elite cultures and social groups are maintained and legitimated as part of attempts to reproduce ‘normalised’ expectations about the identity and practice of a City professional. Maintenance is ensured by assessing the objectified, institutionalised, and embodied cultural capital of applicants in recruitment and selection processes, with only those possessing certain types of capital being recruited. This selection by cultural capital limits social mobility in City professions, which are dominated by the upper-middle classes, and helps explain why, in the face of critique and in the context of programmes designed to widen social diversity, the City legal profession remains socially exclusive. Keywords: cultural capital, professional service firms, law, City of London, elites, recruitment and selection processes
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