This study explores the role of corporate lawyers in the construction and operation of a key area of the Brazilian economy over a thirty-year period. It looks at three periods in the history of the Brazilian telecoms sector: the fall of state monopoly; global restructuring, neoliberalism, and privatization; and the recent resurgence of state activism. In the first two periods, lawyers worked to facilitate privatization and to create a lightly regulated market for telecoms services that attracted foreign capital. Things changed, however, when the industry was faced with new industrial and social policies. In this period, lawyers oscillated between resisting government intrusion and negotiating engagement with regulators. This sequence of events encompasses changes in the field of state power, hierarchies in the legal profession, and core-periphery relations, which invite new syntheses of existing theoretical traditions about law, lawyers, and capitalist development in emerging economies.