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The New Place of Corporate Law Firms in the Structuring of Elite Legal Careers

Mon, August 14, 2:30 to 3:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 520A


A position in a large corporate law firm is almost universally held out as the singular mark of success for those with a law degree. Yet at the same time, the golden age of corporate law firms is challenged by the reality of the legal market today. The once coveted partnership positions in large law firms have become more unstable, with these careers characterized by a ‘tournament without end.’ Despite these threats, however, the corporate partner is still arguably at the top of the practicing lawyer hierarchy. We contend that in order to better understand the patterns of advantage, and the shifting terrain exemplified by positions in corporate law firms, we need to focus on the labor market value of various forms of capital that lead into – and out of – these positions. By drawing on 13 years of lawyers’ career histories from the After the J.D. study, and by using the technique of sequence analysis, this paper interrogates the value of the corporate law firm by examining the career sequences of lawyers who began in this setting.


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