Commercial lawyers are often seen as being at the forefront of intra-professional developments within the legal field. Since their role seems to be increasingly one of a general business consultant - advising clients beyond strictly legal issues - commercial lawyers are described as being in need of a new set of skills and knowledge in order to succeed. This study focuses on the changing self-understanding of lawyers as expressed through their stories of work in one of their most important institutions, the big law firm. How do they conceptualize the role and responsibilities of a lawyer in general? Do they experience a role conflict and if so how do they (discursively) address it? One area within commercial law exemplifying the opportunities and challenges they face is the field of international commercial arbitration. Here, lawyers are supposed to be in a crucial position, shaping and being shaped by an emerging system of transnational justice. The project is conducted by Markus Walz under the supervision of Professor Mikael Holmqvist.

Relevant interview questions:

What does it mean to be or to become a lawyer? 
Why did you become a lawyer?
What is the role of commercial lawyers within the legal profession?
What are the characteristics of working in a law firm?
Have you experienced conflicts based on your work assignments/tasks?
How is one successful in your field?  

Study design

The research project will be based on case studies. It is crucial to meet and engage with commercial lawyers in order to get a better understanding of their perspective on their work and their profession. Besides conducting semi-structured interviews, I hope to include participant observations from different events such as conferences, hearings or student competitions. So far I have mostly interviewed younger associates working for global law firms in the US and in Sweden, and some senior partners practicing in Sweden.
As I am interested in learning more about socialization processes, it is desirable that I meet with practitioners as well as academics and law students. The research is in line with standard scientific practice and research ethics and is free from any economic, commercial or political special interest. If not otherwise agreed, all material is treated confidentially and study participants (persons and organizations) are fully anonymous. 

Study results

The study’s contribution is twofold: First, to offer an analysis of the role of professionalism and professional self-understanding for identities at work; second, to produce a comprehensive description of commercial lawyers’ challenges when working in big corporate entities as constructed in the stories they tell about their work and their motives. The study will be utilized for conference papers and presentations and will ultimately be the basis for my doctoral dissertation.