Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 131–148 | Cite as

A working-class profession: opportunism and diversity in U.S. law

  • Riaz Tejani


Experts of capitalist labor and economy have called white-collar professionals a “re-embedded market” inasmuch as they defy expectations that free-market economic life should be liberated from social and moral constraints. In the USA, lawyers, a historically middle-class community, have re-embedded their profession through robust ethics rules that prohibit opportunistic behavior. But, in recent years, they have seen increased opportunism by legal academics toward aspiring students eager for a chance at professional upward mobility. This shift has manifested in the increased recruitment of working-class students into low-value law schools struggling to fill their seats after the global economic downturn. As legal education grew more accessible to the working class, it grew increasingly detached from the morally grounded economic judgment that once characterized professionalism. From this example, I argue that the embeddedness of professional labor may be tied to socioeconomic class relations more than advanced knowledge and the informational asymmetries that entails.


Law Profession Market Labor Economy Class 



Eugene McCarthy, Francine Banner, and Jason Pierceson provided valuable feedback on early versions of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BusinessUniversity of RedlandsRedlandsUSA

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