Case conferences: on the social technique of meetings
Bernard Keenan (LSE)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, we draw on participant observation of meetings in lawyers’ offices to develop a case study in the cultural idiom of the ‘meeting’.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, we draw on participant observation of meetings in lawyers' offices to explore a particular idiom of the 'meeting'. Our focus is on the 'conferences' in which clients meet with their solicitor and barrister prior to a court hearing. One of the objects of these meetings is to prepare the client for their appearance in court; to advise of them of what to expect and to introduce them to their advocate, hopefully so as to foster a relationship of trust. We are interested in the interaction of two dimensions of this kind of meeting. First, what one might call the 'frame' or 'script' of the encounter - the specific template or configuration is reproduced whatever the actual spatial context, and which elicits a particular bodily hexis and discursive style from each of the participants. Although these conferences are supposed to be informal and preparatory, the actors very readily take on the personae they expect to perform 'for real' in the courtroom setting. Second, we focus in on the gestures, media, and routinized verbal formulae in which the idiom of the meeting is actualized. Throughout, we engage with what we take to be the essential challenge of the theme: given what we know about documents and texts as exemplary artifacts of knowledge, what happens when we shift attention to the interactive frame of the 'meeting'?
Meetings: procedure and artifacts of modern knowledge