Just Like Global Firms: Unintended Gender Parity and Speculative Isomorphism in India's Elite Professions

Law & Society Review. Vol.53, No.1, 2019

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2019-11

51 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2019

See all articles by Swethaa Ballakrishnen

Swethaa Ballakrishnen

University of California, Irvine School of Law; Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession

Date Written: March 15, 2019

Abstract

Against most male-dominated accounts of professional work, elite law firms in India pose a puzzling exception: women make up about half of these firms, even at senior levels of partnership. Using in-depth interviews with over 130 professionals in India’s elite litigation, transactional law and consulting firms, this research suggests that elite law firms—as new, local organizations—aggressively differentiate themselves from their more traditional peers to establish organizational legitimacy. At the same time, as institutions trying to mimic global firms without actual scripts for doing so, these firms engage in a form of “speculative isomorphism” through which they signal meritocracy and modernity to their global audience. Because equal gender representation is one such mechanism, the result is environments where certain kinds of women are uniquely advantaged.

Suggested Citation

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa, Just Like Global Firms: Unintended Gender Parity and Speculative Isomorphism in India's Elite Professions (March 15, 2019). Law & Society Review. Vol.53, No.1, 2019; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2019-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3353503

Swethaa Ballakrishnen (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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