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Working for Corporate Actors: Social Change and Elite Attorneys in Chicago

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

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Elite attorneys have been the objects of social scientific study and speculation for many years. This article contributes to that body of thought by reporting some of the results of a research project that studied 59 members of Chicago's corporate actor legal elite-the lawyers who serve the city's major business, social, civic, political, and cultural organizations.

The article briefly defines the elite studied and the design of the overall re-search project. It then focuses on the working situations of these lawyers and the professional roles they play for their respective corporate actors. A division of legal labor that is discovered to separate house counsel from law firm partners among the elite is analyzed in some depth.

Since the professional roles of these elite attorneys differ from those de-scribed by other social scientists earlier, the article concludes by offering a theory to explain this apparent social change. By tapping recent discussions of the coming of postliberal society, it suggests that corporate actors engineer this new division of legal labor for their attorneys in response to the complex new legal problems posed by institutional changes in the larger society.

Research Article
Copyright © American Bar Foundation, 1979 

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