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Accidental FeminismGender Parity and Selective Mobility among India's Professional Elite$
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Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182537

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182537.001.0001

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(p.100) My Clients Prefer a Woman Lawyer

New Returns to Essentialism

(p.99) Four Facings
Accidental Feminism

Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the ways in which relationships between female professionals and their clients, peers, and mentors help create and reinforce interactional hierarchies in these spaces. Certainly, professionals in these firms have been socialized to be comfortable in mixed-gender settings. But although supportive peer interactions are necessary to create an environment of gender parity, women in elite law firms also are especially backed by an important external audience that does not actively discriminate on the basis of gender — their clients. Elite law firms in India, unlike their traditional counterparts, retain a “sophisticated” client base of international and high-end domestic clients. This setup affords a comparatively advantageous position — especially for women lawyers — for a range of reasons. First, many clients are comfortable with women in their workplace and as allies in transactions. Second, the nature of the legal work handled by these firms does not prime gender frames in lawyer–client interactions. Third, the closed market for legal services offers another interactional advantage — retained and repeating clients.

Keywords:   female professionals, interactional hierarchies, gender parity, Indian elite law firms, women lawyers, mixed-gender settings, gender

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