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Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em: Gendered segmentation in the legal profession

Bolton, S.C. and Muzio, D. (2007) Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em: Gendered segmentation in the legal profession. Sociology, 41 (2). pp. 47-64. ISSN 0038-0385

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Abstract

Successful professions have historically relied on the establishment of effective closure regimes. The last 30 years or so have witnessed a gradual erosion of the legal profession's external closure regime, which seems to be associated with the gradual feminization of the legal profession. Women now represent the majority of salaried solicitors; yet, despite some recent progress,they still represent a mere quarter of partners. In reference to these developments this article seeks to cultivate a typology of patterns of gendered segmentation in the legal profession. We argue that gendered segmentation, which thrives on the ideology of women's difference, has become a defence mechanism of an embattled profession, ensuring that the elite segments hold onto their status and associated rewards while the feminized segments increase leverage without rocking the partnership system, effectively forming a reserve army of legal labour with lesser terms and conditions.