When and Why Do Lawyer Organisations Seek to Influence Law?


When and Why Do Lawyer Organisations Seek to Influence Law?



Published as Chapter 15 in Lawyers in 21st-Century Societies: Volume 2: Comparisons and Theories, Richard L Abel, Hilary Sommerlad, Ole Hammerslev & Ulrike Schultz, eds.

Lawyers seek to influence law through advocacy for individual clients, but also through collective efforts. Such efforts come from informal networks of politically engaged “cause” lawyers and also from formal lawyers’ organizations such as bar associations. This article explores when and why lawyer organizations attempt to influence law, primarily by considering the activities of lawyers’ professional organizations. The article closely examines lawyers’ organizational efforts in seven countries – Brazil, China, Israel, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, and the United States – and then briefly compares those results to lawmaking attempts in forty other countries, using data from national reports of the legal professions in Volume I of this series. Lawyers’ collective activities to influence law range along a continuum from the most self-interested (efforts to benefit the legal profession or the lawyer organization itself), to those efforts benefitting clients, or courts and the administration of justice, finally to broader efforts to advance human rights or address issues in civil society. The article concludes by identifying key factors that influence the ability of lawyers’ organizations to act on legal issues and also those factors that appear to affect why the organizations do so. The latter discussion draws especially on theories of market control and political liberalism, finding some support for each.

Publication Date



Hart Publishing




Legal Profession, Law & Society, Lawyer Regulation, Lawyer Organizations


Law | Law and Society | Legal Profession


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When and Why Do Lawyer Organisations Seek to Influence Law?