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Terence Halliday

Terence Halliday is a Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. Professor Halliday is a specialist in globalization and law. His research focuses on the globalization of markets and politics, with particular attention to global norm-making by international organizations.  In addition to his appointment at the American Bar Foundation, Professor Halliday is the co-director of the Center on Law and Globalization, an adjunct professor of sociology at Northwestern University, and an honorary professor in the Faculty of Asia and the Pacific in the School of Regulation, Justice and Diplomacy at Australian National University.

Professor Halliday studied at Massey University in New Zealand and the University of Toronto. He completed his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago. 

Criminal Defense in China

Halliday has recently published, with co-author, Professor Sida Liu, University of Toronto, the findings of a ten-year research project the rise of Chinese right lawyers and activists. Their research culminated in the 2016 book, Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work (Cambridge University Press)

  • In Criminal Defense in China, Liu and Halliday document the intricate challenges confronting ordinary criminal defense lawyers and notable activists as they seek to protect the basic legal rights of vulnerable detainees in China. 
  • Based on extensive interviews, a survey, and media analysis, the research shows how everyday criminal practice is a lens through we can observe fundamental struggles for core legal freedoms, an open civil society, and a moderate state.
  • The outcomes of that struggle, Liu and Halliday argue, will be consequential for the future of law and politics in authoritarian China.

Key Findings and Themes from Criminal Defense in China 

Criminal defense and activist lawyers are embroiled in China’s intense struggle between forces for reform and repression.

Criminal practice in China has been shaped by three cycles of criminal procedure reform in 1979, 1996, 2012:

  • Each Criminal Procedure Law is more detailed than the last
  • Each appears to adhere more closely to global norms 
  • Each seemingly institutionalizes stronger basic legal freedoms


  • Each also leaves broad zones of ambiguity for state to evade spirit of norms
  • The 2012 Criminal Procedure Law introduces measures that essentially legalize state repression

The research identified 5 segments of defense lawyers:

  • Two of those (pragmatic brokers, routine practitioners) do not act to advance political liberalism
  •  Three of those (progressive elites, grassroots activists, notable activists) are committed to a politics of work that strives to protect basic legal freedoms, build a vibrant civil society, and moderate state power.

In present-day China the research indicates there is a significant proportion of grassroots activists (10-20% of criminal defense lawyers) and a small but indomitable network of 300-400 notable activists who maintain a struggle for three core elements of political liberalism:

  • Basic legal freedoms (e.g., freedom from arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearances, unrestrained police power; and rights to legal counsel, fair trials)
  • Vibrant civil society – freedoms of speech & religion, association, movement
  • Moderate state – where executive power is divided and balanced

China’s criminal defense  lawyers confront continuing difficulties in representing clients detained for criminal offenses: difficulty in meeting suspects; difficulty in accessing case files; difficulty of collecting evidence; fear of the crime of lawyers’ perjury (Art 306), to mention a few.

The crackdown against 300+ lawyers and activists that began on 9 July 2015 has been unprecedented:

  1. Nationwide
  2. Media shaming
  3. Public confessions
  4. Legalized disappearances – Art 73 in 2012 CPL has proved a trapdoor into oblivion.
  5. Overseas kidnappings of activists and family members
  6. More aggressive targeting of family members to increase leverage on detainees
  7. Government arbitrarily replacing detainees’ lawyers with government-friendly lawyers 
  8. More severe charges – from disturbing social stability to subversion of the state.
  9. Intensifying torture and secret trials.

Where do notable activists get the courage to maintain the struggle against such crackdowns?

  • Biographical experiences: grievances from early life history or life course or practice
  • Legal-political beliefs in the rule of law, political liberalism, political change
  • Religious convictions & solidarity: Christian faith in equality, freedom, justice, forgiveness, love, fairness, forgiveness
  • Domestic organizational support: lawyer networks, civil society solidarities, social media
  • International support from six main institutions: (i) International media; (ii) International human rights organizations; (iii) Lawyer-specific international organizations; (iv) international religious organizations; (v) foreign governments; (vi) international government organizations

The effectiveness of international interventions occurs through:

  • Monitoring
  • Intervening
  • Funding
  • Affirming
  • Analyzing

China’s vanguard of defense, rights and activist lawyers stand in a long tradition of lawyers in Asia (Taiwan, South Korea, India), Africa (Zambia, Kenya), Latin America (Brazil), North America and Europe who have fought for basic legal freedoms and political liberalism more broadly.

Recent Media Coverage Highlighting Research from Criminal Defense in China

Global Law-making in Commercial and Trade Law

Global lawmaking by international organizations holds the potential for enormous influence over world trade and national economies. Representatives from states, industries and professions produce laws for worldwide adoption in an effort to alter state lawmaking and commercial behaviors, whether of giant multi-national corporations or micro, small and medium-sized businesses. Who makes that law and who benefits affects all states and all market players. Cambridge University Press will publish in 2017 Terence Halliday's book with Susan Block-Lieb (Fordham University Law School) Global Lawmakers: International Organizations in the Crafting of World Markets

  • Global Lawmakers offers the first extensive empirical study of commercial lawmaking inside the United Nations. It shows who makes law for the world, how they make it, and who comes out ahead.
  • Using extensive and unique data, the book investigates episodes of lawmaking between the late 1990s and 2012 in three areas critical for international trade--carriage of goods by sea, corporate bankrutpcy law, secured transactions law.
  • Through its original socio-legal orientation, it reveals dynamics of competition and cooperation within and between international organizations, including the UN, World Bank, IMF and UNIDROIT, as IOs cooperate and compete to craft international laws.
  • Global Lawmakers proposes an original theory of international organizations which seek to construct transnational legal orders within social ecologies of lawmaking. The book offers an appraisal of creative global governance by the UN in international commerce over the past fifty years and examines prospective challenges for the 21st century.

Transnational Legal Orders

With international law Professor Gregory Shaffer, University of California Irvine, Halliday published Transnational Legal Orders (Cambridge University Press, 2015). The publication presents a new empirically-grounded theory that reframes the study of law and society from a predominantly national context, to a dynamic perspective that places national, international, and transnational lawmaking and practice within a coherent single frame. This book offers an original approach to the emergence of legal orders beyond nation-states. It shows how they originate, where they compete and cooperate, and how they settle on institutions that legally order fundamental economic and social behaviors that transcend national borders. In Transnational Legal Orders, the theory is applied and developed by distinguished scholars from North America and Europe in business law (international taxation, corporate bankruptcy, secured transactions, transport of goods by sea), regulatory law (finance, monetary and trade, food safety, climate change), and human rights (rule of law, right to health/access to medicines, human trafficking, civil and political rights, criminal accountability of political leaders).

The Legal Complex and Basic Legal Freedoms

Halliday is Co-Principal Investigator with Professor Lucien Karpik (Ecoles des Mines and EHESS, Paris) and Professor Malcolm Feeley (University of California, Berkeley) on a National Science Foundation funded project on a long-standing international research collaboration of scholars who study the mobilization of legal occupations (the “legal complex”) in the rise and fall of political liberalism, including basic legal freedoms. Their latest book, Fates of Political Freedom: The Legal Complex in the British Post-Colony (Cambridge University Press, 2012), shows how the involvements of lawyers and judges influenced three different trajectories of legal-political change in the new nations that got independence from Britain after World War II. It will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.

With Professor Bruce Carruthers, Halliday published in 2009, Bankrupt: Global Lawmaking and Systemic Financial Crisis (Stanford University Press), an empirical investigation of global norm-making and national law-making on corporate bankruptcy.  Awarded three distinguished book prizes by the American Sociological Association, and funded by the American Bar Foundation and National Science Foundation, Bankrupt develops a theory of legal change in global contexts derived from three sets of empirical evidence: (1) a cross-national, time-series analysis of bankruptcy reforms, worldwide, from 1978 to 1998; (2) extensive interviewing and participant observation of international institutions involved in the creation of global norms for corporate bankruptcy; and (3) case studies of bankruptcy law-making in China, Indonesia and Korea since the Asian Financial Crisis.

Halliday has taught at the University of Toronto, the Australian National University, the University of Chicago and has been a Visitor, Center for Sociolegal Studies, Wolfson College, Oxford University. He is currently an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University. He has served as a consultant to the State Council Office on Restructuring the Economic System, China; the World Bank; OECD; and various non-profit foundations in the U.S.

Halliday has served as Editor, Law and Social Inquiry; General Editor, Onati International Series in Law and Society; and Co-Editor, Current Legal Sociology.  He has served as President, Section on Sociology of Law, American Sociological Association; President, Working Group on Comparative Studies of Legal Professions, and a Board Member, Research Committee on the Sociology of Law, International Sociological Association. He was a founding Board member of the International Institute in the Sociology of Law, Onati, Spain. He currently is a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee, Law and Society Association (USA) and the Chair of its International Affairs Committee.

He writes and is frequently cited in the international media, including the New York Times, Wall St Journal, the Guardian, and recently testified in Congress on China's brutal crackdown on notable activist lawyers.

Recent publications on law and globalization

Susan Block-Lieb and Terence C. Halliday. In Press 2017. Global Lawmakers: International Organizations in the Crafting of World Markets. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sida Liu and Terence Halliday. 2016. The Politics of Defense: Lawyers and Criminal Justice in China. (New York: Cambridge University Press).

Terence C. Halliday and Gregory Shaffer (editors). 2015. Transnational Legal Orders. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sida Liu, Lily Liang, Terence C. Halliday. 2014. “The Trial of Li Zhuang: Chinese Lawyers’ Collective Action Against Populism.” Asian Journal of Law and Society, 1: 79-97.

 Terence C. Halliday. 2013. “Why the Legal Complex is Integral to Theories of Consequential Courts.” In Kapisczewski, Diana, Gordon Silverstein and Robert A. Kagan (eds), Consequential Courts: Judicial Roles in Global Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 337-348.

Terence C. Halliday, Josh Pacewicz and Susan-Block Lieb. 2013. “Who Governs? Delegations in Global Trade Lawmaking.” Regulation and Governance 7: 279-298.

Terence C. Halliday, 2013. "Architects of the State: International Financial Institutions and the Reconstruction of States in East Asia." In Gregory Shaffer (ed), Transnational Legal Ordering and State Change. New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 89-120.

Terence C. Halliday and Susan Block-Lieb. 2013. “Global Duelists: The Recursive Politics of the Text in International Trade Law.” Pp. 77-97 in Amanda Perry-Kessaris, Socio-Legal Approaches to International Economic Law: Text, Context, Subtext. London: Routledge.

Terence C. Halliday. 2012. “Legal Yardsticks: International Financial Institutions as Diagnosticians and Designers of the Law of Nations.” Pp. 180-216 in Kevin Davis, Angelina Fisher, Benedict Kingsbury, and Sally Engle Merry (Eds),Governance by Indicators: Global Power through Quantification and Rankings (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Terence C. Halliday, Susan Block-Lieb, Bruce Carruthers. 2010. "Rhetorical Legitimation: Global Scripts as Strategic Devices of International Organizations." European Socio-Economic Review, 2009:1-36.

Sida Liu and Terence C. Halliday. 2009. "Recursivity in Legal Change: Lawyers and Reforms of China's Criminal Procedure Law." Law and Social Inquiry, 34:911-950.

Terence C. Halliday. 2009. "Recursivity in Global Law-Making: A Sociolegal Agenda." Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 5:263-290.

Terence C. Halliday. 2009. "The Fight for Basic Legal Freedoms: Mobilization by the Legal Complex." In James J.  Heckman, Robert L. Nelson, and Lee Cabatingan (Eds), Global Perspectives on the Rule of Law. London: Routledge/Cavendish.

Terence C. Halliday and Bruce G. Carruthers. May, 2009. Bankrupt: Global Lawmaking and Systemic Financial Crisis. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Terence C. Halliday, Lucien Karpik & Malcolm M. Feeley (Eds). 2007. Fighting for Political Freedom: Comparative Studies of the Legal Complex and Political Change.  Oxford: Hart Publishing (Oñati International Series in Law and Society).

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