The Commercialisation of law and the enterprising legal practitioner:continuity and change

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This paper engages with William Twining's longstanding concern with law as a ‘practical art’ through a discussion of the changes which the corporate law sector is currently undergoing. These changes will be examined through an analysis of qualitative data on the recruitment practices of large commercial law firms and a reading of the trade press. The evidence of these firms' thoroughgoing commercialisation, and of Human Resource (HR) strategies designed to produce legal entrepreneurs, is suggestive of a Foucaultian ‘analytics of government’. The data indicates however that underlying the dramatic changes in professionalism, there are also significant continuities. As a result a range of competing rationalities and discourses are today in circulation in the corporate law firm – for instance, discourses of diversity/meritocracy/social mobility; entrepreneurialism; economic rationality and managerialism. These various discourses both support and reflect the complex of ‘modernising’ impulses, residual cultural practices and acts of resistance which today characterises the legal professional field. A primary attraction of contemporary recruitment practices is their capacity to encompass and manage these contradictions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-108
JournalInternational Journal of the Legal Profession
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011