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Speaker Series: Charles Bosvieux-Onyekwelu, EHESS, Paris and Melissa Crouch, University of New South Wales, Sydney

  • When: October 10, 2018, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

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Presentations from ABF Visiting Scholars

Pro Bono Practice in Global Law Firms: a Sociodicy in the Legal World

Now an integral part of large law firms’ policy, over the last 20 years pro bono practice has been exported outside the US, to other countries where these transnational corporations have established branches. Its worldwide diffusion highlights the growing globalisation of human rights as well as an attempt to expand the organisational design and rationale of large law firms. These firms’ intense intellectual investment in commercial law has resulted in unprecedented standards of profitability. Yet it calls into question lawyers’ professional reputation and service ideal. Based on ongoing comparative research using France as a case study and combining interviews with pro bono professionals and ethnographic work in the Parisian branches of two global law firms, my presentation puts at centre stage the positive correlation between a firm’s revenue (as measured by the rate of profit per partner) and the annual volume of pro bono work hours achieved. I suggest that these data hint at a form of sociodicy (to borrow from both Weber and Bourdieu) in the legal world, a theoretical assumption by which I mean that pro bono is a narrative of elite lawyers to claim they still represent a profession, not a business.

Optional reading: 

A member of Centre Maurice Halbwachs, Charles Bosvieux-Onyekwelu is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris and currently a Fulbright Scholar at Northwestern University. He received his PhD in Sociology from Université Paris-Saclay. Based on archival research and on a prosopographical enquiry enhanced by geometric data analysis, his doctoral dissertation provides a social history of the idea of public service during the French Third Republic (1870-1940). Croire en l’État. Une genèse de l’idée de service public en France (1873-1940), the book derived from his PhD thesis, will soon be available in French (Éditions du Croquant, "Sociologie historique" Collection). Along with Véronique Mottier (University of Cambridge, UK), Dr Bosvieux-Onyekwelu is also coediting Genre, droit et politique (Éditions Droit & Société, forthcoming), a manuscript that gathers contributions from leading scholars (Bruno Perreau, Jane Freedman, Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez) in the field of Gender Studies.

Dr Bosvieux-Onyekwelu’s broader research spans the sociology of elites, the sociology of law and policy analysis. He is interested in the process, both historical and contemporary, of elites’ legitimisation and domination. His current research, for which he has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at EHESS and a Fulbright scholarship, focuses on pro bono practice in global law firms. It sticks to an international comparison between France and the United States, and combines a sociology of law, a sociology of work and of the professions and a sociology of capitalism approach.

Dr Bosvieux-Onyekwelu has held teaching positions at the University of Cambridge, the Sorbonne and Sciences Po. His recent publications include “The Gender of Human Rights: the French Debate over ‘les droits de l’Homme’” (in Human Rights as Battlefields: Changing Practices and Contestations, Gabriel Blouin-Genest, Marie-Christine Doran and Sylvie Paquerot eds), “Le service public au Conseil d’État : comment un grand corps se professionnalise en captant une idée (1872-1940)” (Sociologie du travail, volume 60 (4), 2018) and “Multinacionais do direito, escritórios de advocacia e pro bono: elementos para uma análise comparativa dos campos jurídicos francês e Americano” (Revista Debates, Special Issue “Internacionalização e Poder de Estado”, Yves Dezalay, Fabiano Engelmann and Antoine Vauchez eds, 2019).

Constitutional Legacies in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Military Uses the Constitution to Rule Myanmar

How and why do authoritarian regimes draft constitutions to perpetuate their legacy? The field of comparative constitutional law and politics has sought to understand the role and function of constitutions in authoritarian regimes. My presentation will consider how the military uses the Constitution to rule Myanmar today. Using qualitative methods, I question why and how the Constitution is crucial to maintain the ‘military-state’ in Myanmar. The military spent two decades crafting this Constitution, and insisted on going ahead with the referendum in 2008 despites the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in that year. I suggest that the Constitution is central to the construction and maintenance of the ‘military-state’. This military-state has three components: first, the leading role of the military in national politics; second, the three ideology meta-principles of the military-state; and third, the concept of cooperative centralism as a way to describe the distribution of power and relationship between the branches of government. This presentation is based on my forthcoming book, The Constitution of Myanmar (Hart, 2019). Part of the importance of this project and future research lies in the new lines of inquiry that Myanmar can open in the field of comparative constitutional law and the way that this case calls us to pay greater attention to constitutional legacies, forms of authoritarian legality and the dark side of constitutional endurance.

Photo Courtesy of UNSW Sydney

Dr. Melissa Crouch is Associate Professor at the Law School, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. She obtained her BA/LLB and PhD from the University of Melbourne, and previously held positions at the University of Melbourne, the National University of Singapore and Monash University.  Her research contributes to the field of Comparative Constitutional Law; Law and Development; and Law and Religion, with a focus on socio-legal research in Southeast Asia. She is the author of  The Constitution of Myanmar (Hart Publishing forthcoming 2019) and Law and Religion in Indonesia: Conflict and the Courts in West Java (Routledge, 2014), and editor of The Politics of Courts and Legal Change: Judicial Reform and the Legacy of Dan S Lev in Indonesia (CUP forthcoming 2019); Islam and the State in Myanmar (OUP 2016); The Business of Transition: Law, Development and Economics in Myanmar (CUP 2017); and Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar (2014). Her work has appeared in a range of peer-reviewed journals including the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Asian Studies Review and Sydney Law Review. She is the Academic Lead (Myanmar) for the UNSW Institute for Global Development.

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