Rationalizing professional misconduct: An examination of techniques of neutralization in lawyer discipline proceedings

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White-collar deviance
Lawyer discipline
Techniques of neutralization
Professional self-regulation

This thesis investigates the use of neutralization techniques by lawyers to justify, excuse, and rationalize their behaviour in disciplinary action for misappropriation, real estate fraud, and conviction for serious financial criminal offences. In addition to assessing the nature and frequency of lawyer neutralizations, this study also considers the extent to which law society discipline hearing panels evaluate and respond to these defence and mitigation strategies in making a sanctioning determination. The dataset consists of 393 law society discipline decisions from eight of Canada’s 14 provincial and territorial law societies decided between 1990 and 2017. Content analysis addresses the characteristics of these lawyers, how they use techniques of neutralization and are disciplined by the law societies, and how hearing panels evaluate and respond to these rationalizations. The research findings have implications for neutralization theory and its application to lawyer discipline, for stakeholders and policymakers. The conclusions focus on three issues: 1) the prevalence of substance use and other mental health concerns in lawyer discipline cases, 2) the role of post-offence mitigation in the sanction determination, and 3) the suggestion that mitigating factors should be re-examined as techniques of neutralization with the goal of neutralizing some of them when imposing sanctions in disciplinary cases.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Joan Brockman
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.