The Legal Profession as a Social Process: A Theory on Lawyers and Globalization

24 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2014

See all articles by Sida Liu

Sida Liu

University of Toronto; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: August 1, 2013


This article proposes a processual theory of the legal profession. In contrast to the structural, interactional, and collective action approaches, this processual theory conceptualizes the legal profession as a social process that changes over space and time. The social process of the legal profession includes four components: (1) diagnostic struggles over professional expertise; (2) boundary work over professional jurisdictions; (3) migration across geographical areas and status hierarchies; and (4) exchange between professions, and the state. Building on the processual theory and using China as a primary example, the author proposes a research agenda for studying lawyers and globalization that seeks to shift the focus of research from the legal elite to ordinary law practitioners, from global law firms to local law firms, and from advanced economies to emerging economies.

Suggested Citation

Liu, Sida, The Legal Profession as a Social Process: A Theory on Lawyers and Globalization (August 1, 2013). Law and Social Inquiry, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2013; HLS Program on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2014-10. Available at SSRN:

Sida Liu (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

725 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J4


American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States


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