Power, distance and solidarity: Models of professional-client interaction in an Israeli legal aid setting

Bryna Bogoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that professional-client relationships have changed from the traditional authoritarian model, marked by professional dominance, neutrality and distance, to a participatory, client-centered model that is responsive to the lifeworld of the client. In addition to the effects of the proletarianization and deprofessionalization processes that have been said to diminish professional control, it was expected that the participatory model would prevail in Israel because of ideological commitment to egalitarian, solidary and informal relationships even between strangers. Nineteen lawyer-client conversations in an Israeli legal aid office were analyzed, focusing on five features that reflect the power, distance and solidarity dimensions of these models: (1) conversational openings; (2) professional register; (3) topic control; (4) the expression of emotion; (5) forms of address. Results showed that lawyer-client behavior in Israel resembled the authoritarian model rather than the participatory one. Strategies that were often associated with positive politeness were used by the lawyer for distancing and resulted in interactionally threatening moves. In addition, the sex of the participants and the constraints of bureaucratic practice also affected the model of professional behavior evidenced by these lawyers and clients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-88
Number of pages24
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This is a revised version of a paper presented at the International Conference on Discourse and the Professions, Uppsala, Sweden, 26-9 August 1992, that was based on my dissertation. The research was supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Israel Foundation Trustees. I am grateful to Brenda Danet, Robert Cooper and Viveka Adelsward for their comments and advice, to Michael Harrison who provided me with a pre-presentation copy of his extremely useful paper, and to the participants at the session on Expert-Lay Interaction at the conference, whose questions and comments led me to revise and clarify a number of issues.


  • Israel
  • discourse analysis
  • gender
  • language and power
  • language in institutional settings
  • lawyer-client interaction
  • professions


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