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The Making of Lawyers’ Careers

Inequality and Opportunity in the American Legal Profession


An unprecedented account of social stratification within the US legal profession.

How do race, class, gender, and law school status condition the career trajectories of lawyers? And how do professionals then navigate these parameters?

The Making of Lawyers’ Careers provides an unprecedented account of the last two decades of the legal profession in the US, offering a data-backed look at the structure of the profession and the inequalities that early-career lawyers face across race, gender, and class distinctions. Starting in 2000, the authors collected over 10,000 survey responses from more than 5,000 lawyers, following these lawyers through the first twenty years of their careers. They also interviewed more than two hundred lawyers and drew insights from their individual stories, contextualizing data with theory and close attention to the features of a market-driven legal profession.

Their findings show that lawyers’ careers both reflect and reproduce inequalities within society writ large. They also reveal how individuals exercise agency despite these constraints.

416 pages | 22 line drawings, 24 tables | 6 x 9

Chicago Series in Law and Society

Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies

Table of Contents

Note on Authorship

Part 1   Introduction
1          Introduction: The Making of Lawyers’ Careers
2          From the Golden Age to the Age of Disruption: Setting the Context for Lawyers’ Careers in the New Millennium

Part 2   The Structure of Lawyers’ Careers
3          Change and Continuity in the Legal Field: From Walled-Off Hemispheres to More or Less Mixed Hierarchical Sequences
4          Race, Class, and Gender in the Structuring of Lawyers’ Early Careers
5          Two Hemispheres Revisited: Fields of Law, Practice Settings, and Client Types

Part 3   The Narratives of Lawyers’ Careers
6          Moving Up and Moving On: Careers in Law Firms
7          Rethinking the Solo Practitioner
8          Moving Inside: Practicing Law in Business Organizations
9          Commitment, Careerism, and Stratification: Careers in Government, Nonprofits, and Public Interest Organizations

Part 4   Inequalities of Race and Gender
10        White Spaces: The Enduring Racialization of American Law Firms, with Vitor M. Dias
11        Student Debt and Cumulative (Dis)Advantage in Lawyers’ Careers
12        Hegemonic Masculinity, Parenthood, and Gender Inequality, with Andreea Mogosanu

Part 5   Public Roles and Private Lives
13        Dualities of Politics, Public Service, and Pro Bono in Lawyers’ Careers, with Ioana Sendroiu
14        Lawyers’ Satisfaction and the Making of Lawyers’ Careers, with Ioana Sendroiu

Part 6   Conclusion
15        Conclusion: Structure and Agency in the Making of Lawyers’ Careers


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