Spencer Headworth, Robert L. Nelson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


“Diversity in practice” carries dual meanings. First, it refers to the growing demographic diversity of law and other professions. One of the most profound transformations in professional fields in the last four decades has been the entry of large numbers of women and people of color. The title also refers to enduring inequalities in professional careers, despite rhetorical commitments to diversity and investments in pro-diversity initiatives. An established feature of contemporary professional associations and prestigious professional firms is their embrace of diversity as a goal, and diversity and inclusion programming is widely used. However, in practice, inequalities persist. This volume critically addresses both aspects of diversity in practice, examining the current state of inequality and identifying mechanisms that reproduce advantage and disadvantage. The research reported here reveals dramatic gaps between rhetoric and reality in achieving diversity in law and other professions. Despite professional leaders’ public pronouncements about the importance of diversity and inclusion, the chapters contained here document the persistence of inequalities of race, gender, and class in the professions. These chapters demonstrate that these inequalities are often sustained through more subtle mechanisms than the kinds of explicit discrimination that characterized earlier periods of the Anglo-American legal profession (Abel 1989; Auerbach 1976; Epstein 1981). These mechanisms include the ongoing impact of stereotypes and discrimination; forms of credentialism that prioritize elite educational pedigrees and have disproportionate effects on members of historically underrepresented groups; inequalities in network ties and social capital; and structural changes in professional work that intensify intra-professional stratification, including globalization, technological advances, and blurring lines between law and business. The weight of these collective findings was not preordained by our selection of authors and papers. As part of an ongoing effort by the Research Group on Legal Diversity of the American Bar Foundation, we issued a call for papers on “Pursuing Diverse Talent in Legal and Professional Services: Research within and across Professions, Organizations, and Societies.” We chose for publication those papers that made original empirical contributions to the central theme of the conference. It is a fair reading of this research, conducted by scholars from different disciplines and with different methods, that inequalities of race, gender, and class remain a fundamental problem for law and other modern professions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDiversity in Practice
Subtitle of host publicationRace, Gender, and Class in Legal and Professional Careers
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781316402481
ISBN (Print)9781107123656
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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