The habitus and the practitioner jurist habitat

First impressions about the forensics work

Corte de Apelos
Publicado em 15 Mar. 2016. Última atualização em 24 May. 2018


It is an ethnography essay of the legal professional field with pedagogical repercussions. After the presentation of the qualitative technical research (in especial the anthropological profile), the students performed a field work. The field activity consisted on the controlled observation of the daily work of the lawyers in the exercise of their function (in the forensics environment) and in the descriptive text preparation using notes from the field visit. After the conclusion of the field work, the descriptive texts were presented in the classroom and the students were encouraged to elaborate critical and comprehensive judgments about the concrete use of the legal dogmatic/technology by the people who exercise several legal work types in the forensics bureaucratic structure. In other words, from a non-idealistic point of view, it was stimulated the lawyer in practice (undergraduate student) to the critical perception of the environment and from the exercised practices inside the professional field that he or she possibly will be enrolled after the conclusion of their institutional graduation. 


- GENERAL GOALS: the appropriate standard rules of the Brazilian legal learning define as a desired Professional – to graduate from institutions – the ideal mixed type: the critical and dogmatic. This means that the legal professional should be able to handle the Law while technology and reflect about his own performance. The act of philosophizing is by definition a critical task. It is in this sense, which we can talk about Philosophy as “astonishment”. Thus, the Law philosophy should stimulate the critical perception of the concrete legal phenomenon; how it works in societies like ours, in the occidental cultural and modern plan. Inside this cultural outline the legal phenomenon shows itself, in a considerable way, as a professional cause (in the wide work division scheme) developed in the bureaucratic and institutional framework. The effort for the analysis achievement of this phenomenal aspect of the Law should be accomplished at the “law philosophy” as an important complement to the development of the traditional content themes, as an example we can see the contents referred to several justice theories and the surrounding content, like the ones involving the reflection about the positive law and its systematization. These contents are frequently developed by an idealist philosophy base, and the suggested activity served as a material counterpoint. Additionally, it treats of materializing a humanist reflection tradition about technology.

- SPECIFIC GOALS: Using simplification, it can be said that the activity had as a pedagogical objective of ensuring an active role to the student in the classroom environment during the “Law Philosophy” class. With that, it was intended “to make” philosophy and not only speak about it.

 - ABILITIES TO BE DEVELOPED: the main ability stimulated by the activity was the exercise of criticism. In this case, the critic was understood as a reflection “about” the dogmatic; a comprehensive effort. So, there was a concern about the formation of legal professionals dogmatically aware – able to act within the rules of dogmatic game – capable to go beyond the “standard” professional performance. This standard performance found its perfect example in handling routine “models” in the daily life of legal professions. 


- LEARNING METHOD: research seminar, participant observation and Socratic dialogue

- REQUIREMENTS: In relation to the students, the preparation consists in the achievement of an anthropological minimum training; a kind of “awareness” for criticism. This training phase was developed during three classroom meetings that lasted three hours each. The professors passed to the students some basic texts with at least a week in anticipation, from which they tried to explain the particularities of the “look” of the anthropologist professional, and in special of the urban anthropologist (from complex societies). After the previous students reading, the professors taught an expository dialogic class with the goal of sensitizing the student to the characteristics of the anthropological look. The process of sensitizing equals, in the field of urban anthropology defines itself as the capacity of “finding the familiar strange” (Gilberto Velho).


1st Meeting:

Law Sociology - A profissão jurídica e a vida forense cap. XIV (written by Nelson Saldanha)

Law Studies Introduction - selected parts (written by Tércio Sampáio Ferrar Jr.)

2nd Meeting:

Pesquisas Urbanas: desafios do trabalho antropológico - selected parts (written by Gilberto Velho; Karina Kuschnir - Orgs)

Participant observation and Ethnography - selected parts (written by Michael Angrosino)

3º Meeting:

A Força do Direito (written by Pierre Bourdieu)

Legislation. The State Judiciary Organization. Functional and state judiciary people Structure

Video: "Justiça".

From the professor’s standpoint, the preparation consisted in a development of practical structuring visit material, grounded on ethnography methodology (creation of field work reports), which has, beyond the work description and short work grounding, the concrete indicators for the student observation of the forensics crafts and a physical environment where they grow. (v. ATTACHMENT).

- DEVELOPMENT OF THE DYNAMICS: After the anthropological view training moment, the students went to the field to observe the work of different Lawyers. After a field observation, a general debate was conducted about the concrete characteristics of the forensics crafts. At this moment, students organized a circle in the classroom and were called individually (preferably voluntarily) to describe what they saw of the legal practitioners “tribe” (the way they speak, dress code, professional behavior, work place, routine, rituals, etc.) and which difference of ideal content that they had thought before the field work. As a way of convergence of interpretation efforts, the “legal formalism” was selected as a debate guide. The field work was collected as a way of grading the assignments.

- ATTENTION IN THE CLASSROOM: The process of anthropological “awareness” is essential. Without the knowledge of the characteristics of the “distant” view from the anthropologist, frequently the observations made by the students seem to follow the dogmatic plan. It means the students leave to see the concrete and daily work of the lawyers and want to learn the technical “content” used by them. So, in this case, specific classes are offered in the undergraduate course. Additionally, it needs to pay attention to the adequate methodological orientation, being possible of a frustration from the results when the students do not realize the characteristics of the “scientific” view of the anthropologist. 


- GRADE EVALUATION: After the field work readings, it was attributed the grade to the students on the last day of the. Starting from the notebooks, it was possible to check the quality of the ethnographic research identifying the care of obtaining empirical data (the students always had to “show” their interpretative sources), and also a possible analysis of the own textual quality (coherence, comprehension level, textual structure, etc.) Additionally, it would be possible – although it was not made – to attribute a participation grade to the student who presents the reports in the classroom. In this case, it would be recommended that the professor would make notes about the student performance at the moment of the dialogue. 


1) The activity had a considerable extra-class work – Field work. To “consolidate” the activity it was suggested that the studies development should be deeper about the lawyers’ routines. These studies could be developed in connection to the scientific initiation group and should relate themselves to the description and work criticism made by them at the work field during their own internship (professional training).

2) There are connections with the content that was presented in other classes. First and foremost to the “law anthropology” class. Also by intimate contact of anthropology and sociology, there is a direct connection to the content of the “law/legal sociology” class, in special when it addresses the legal phenomenon under the bureaucratic prism within the modern rationalization (Weber). Additionally, it has a link with the content of the taught class “legal hermeneutics”, in this case, the activity shows an important complement to the idealistic content taught in this class, that a lot of times is about the “interpretation techniques”. On this last hypothesis, the observation of the concrete mechanisms of lawyer decision-making (the lawyer “groups” analysis, interns, secretaries, etc.) allows the student during graduation to notice the characteristics of his professional work on a realistic way. So, it has a greater possibility of criticism and a bigger professional use. 

Activity Details


The habitus and the practitioner jurist habitat: First impressions about the forensics work division


UFERSA (Semi-Arid Rural Federal University)

Concentration area: 

  • Legal Anthropology
  • Law Philosophy
  • Legal Sociology

Discipline : 

Law Philosophy - 2nd period


  • Undergraduate

Key words: 

  • Professional legal field
  • criticism
  • ethnography
  • Law philosophy
  • Legal pedagogy

Number of students: 

From 30 to 40

Time of application: 

21 hours


Guilherme Forma Klafke


Licença Creative Commons
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Atribuição-NãoComercial-CompartilhaIgual 4.0 Internacional

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