Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Eric M. Eisenberg


coordinated management of meaning, framing, interpersonal communication, organizational communication, sensemaking


According to many, the legal industry is currently suffering from a professionalism problem. The following dissertation is a response to the question, "What can be done about incivility in the practice of law in Florida?" It begins by exploring the literature examining ethics and professionalism, specifically focusing on the role communication plays in the production and reification of patterns of meaning and action. After contextualizing the professionalism problem socio-culturally and historically, the dissertation next provides an overview of some relevant aspects of the Coordinated Management of Meaning (a theoretical communication framework employed to help make sense of the existing state of affairs) and examines how legal scholars and practitioners can begin to communicate their way out of the problem. Following the literature review, the dissertation outlines four research questions and addresses the study's use of the World Cafe design principles and methodology for examining the "professionalism problem." Finally, the dissertation concludes by relating four key findings and an observation as well as addressing five ways in which the research has practical and theoretical implications.

In embracing CMM to analyze the conversational patterns and practices of law as they relate to ethics and professionalism, this research theoretically aligns primarily with the sociocultural tradition with some critical and cybernetic overtones. While there are many ways one might examine the professionalism problem, CMM offers an exemplary lens with which to both analyze the problem and proffer a discursive pathway out of the problem. From a communication perspective, the problematics of ethics and professionalism in the practice of law can be understood to originate in the inherent polysemy of language and the incommensurability of moral orders deriving from alternative forms of communication.