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Becoming Global Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Civic Professionalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2021

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Abstract

Through their professional education and training, new lawyers are generally encouraged to adopt a civic vision of professional identity. This article explores convergences and divergences in how new lawyers entering an increasingly globalized legal profession conceive of their civic roles in different national contexts. In particular, I draw on interviews and a cross-cultural identity-mapping method to examine the lived experiences of civic professionalism among corporate-lawyers-in-training in the United States and China. I found that professional identity formation in the US sample is largely marked by role distancing and a sense of constrained public-interest expression. In contrast, Chinese respondents generally identified strongly with their civic roles, while framing their public contributions in pragmatic, state-aligned terms. I conclude with a comparative analysis of young lawyers’ bottom-up efforts to expand their civic impact.

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© 2021 American Bar Foundation

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Footnotes

Gratitude is owed to David Wilkins, the Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies Project, and the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession for generous funding, advice, and other research support throughout the course of this study; to Sida Liu and Rachel Stern for their feedback on research design and analysis; to Leo Zou, Zhengyuan Fan, Andy Yi Wang, and Hui Gao for their research assistance; to Li Xueyao for facilitating contacts with research assistants and respondents; to the Harvard Center Shanghai for providing interview rooms and logistical support; to Calvin Morrill, Tobias Smith, Ethan Michelson, and Bill Alford for feedback on earlier drafts; and to the interview participants who volunteered their time. This article was improved through helpful comments from participants at the 2016 Yale Law School Doctoral Scholarship Conference, the American Bar Foundation’s 2017 conference entitled Legal Education in Crisis? Bringing Researchers and Resources Together to Generate New Scientific Insights, the 2017 meeting of the Law and Society Association, the 2017 meeting of the American Sociological Association, and a 2017 session of the Harvard Law School Comparative and International Law Workshop run by Bill Alford and Intisar Rabb. This research has Institutional Review Board approval from the University of California, Berkeley.

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