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  • Introduction:Effects of Global Developments on Gender and the Legal Practice
  • Gabriele Plickert (bio)

The selected papers in this symposium were presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association in Honolulu, Hawaii as part of two panels organized by the International Research Collaborative (IRC) on gender and global legal practice. This emerging research initiative brings together legal scholars and sociologists who examine the relationship between gender and the legal profession in a national and cross-national framework. The purpose of the IRC initiative is to create a dialogue among scholars and professionals both nationally and internationally.

The papers in this symposium provide a snapshot of current issues and developments in legal practice, focusing in particular on women’s legal work and their status and experience in a globally transforming legal profession. To date, global analyses still remain quite local and continue to measure and predict developments without stepping outside of domestic settings and familiar research approaches. The contributions to this symposium reflect on these ongoing challenges in local and cross-national research, addressing both opportunities and inequalities that global processes have created for women and men in the legal profession. They serve as a preliminary attempt to underscore the significance of global and local approaches and to further our understanding of emerging changes in the legal profession in various cultures, in an era of globalization.

Globalization more generally implies interdependency among economies around the world, heightens intensity of competition among a large number of players, fosters multinational trading and investment activities, and increases the prevalence of cross-border transactions.1 [End Page 1061] The economic, political, and cultural aspects of globalization have promoted a growing connectedness between different societies and cultures, cultivating an interest in and understanding of global communities and cross-national identities.2 In other words, globalization refers to the multifaceted and complex processes of worldwide economic, social, cultural, and political expansion and integration, which enable a flow of commodities, commerce, finance, organizations, people, and ideas transnationally across boundaries of cultures, regions, and nation-states. It encompasses growing and dynamic networks of global perceptions, system interdependence, human interaction, and societal transformation, most likely with significant consequences.3

While we have an understanding of global processes as some form of interconnectedness and exchange beyond local customs and conventional domestic approaches, the concept of globalization is far more complex.4 The focus of global analyses ranges from innovations and modernity to disruption and social inequalities within economic, political, cultural, or geographic processes. Those who attribute “innovative and modern” qualities to globalization emphasize that globalization promotes equality, diversity, and engagement with various cultures, fostering multiple identities and unlimited possibilities.5 But globalization has also hardened the opposition of identities. The sanguine developments and outlook of globalization have been subject to critique with respect to reinforcing traditional approaches that intensify social inequalities and discrimination instead of abating them.6 [End Page 1062] Similarly, feminist scholars reflect on various perspectives on the impact on globalization—some focus on the formation and mobilization of social movements and organizations outside of national opportunities and constraints,7 and others underscore the persistence of structural impediments that are significant for women.8 Consistent with the complex nature of globalization, its impact on women and outcomes in terms of benefits, costs, and predicaments have been mixed.9 Overall, the study of globalization has been largely gender neutral,10 focusing instead on national developments, and primarily equating global developments with “North American” developments outside of the United States.

Considering the significant influx of women into the legal profession in the United States and around the world, it is essential to include gender in the analysis of global processes. Furthermore, regardless of the fast and significant feminization and the increasing influence of international law firms—with larger firms and increased earnings observed in the U.S. legal profession—this trend has not been adopted concurrently in other settings and countries. There still seems to be a difference in the structure and organization of the legal profession that might also impact gender differences in legal careers in other countries.11 We still have little understanding of how national [End Page 1063] differences in legal professional work and...


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pp. 1061-1069
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