Legal Intermediation: Volume 81

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A Processual Approach to Law and Economic Activity


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(8 chapters)


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Previous theories discuss how corporate managers can stir anti-discrimination laws away from their initial social goal by managerializing the law. Yet, other actors – notably insider activists – can contribute to move corporate regulations beyond merely symbolic compliance. I demonstrate this influence of activists with three cases studies: (1) LGBT activists for same-sex parental leave; (2) disability rights activists for implementing a quota; and (3) Muslim activists to secure accommodations in French workplaces. Through these cases, I show how activists can move corporate laws beyond compliance, pressure firms to go from merely symbolic to substantive compliance, and analyze mechanisms that explain their unequal success. Bringing together insights from the legal endogeneity theory and social movements theory, I analyze these activist legal intermediaries as actors faced with unequal structure of opportunities, and examine what factors hinder or favor an activist-driven legal endogeneity. I demonstrate the impact of more prescriptive regulations, the institutional power of union representatives (and their alignment with activists’ claims), reputational stakes for companies, and the resources of activists themselves (legal expertise, ability to reframe laws, and informal power within their organizations). Last, I show how activists leverage organizational and legal tools (collective agreement, diversity policies) to induce recoupling between formal commitments and informal practices.


Since the 1990s, the French government has offered tax exemptions for people who buy property and rent it out for at least nine years. This legal framework, centered on incentives, can be considered a new kind of (de)regulation of housing policy, triggering a multiplication of private intermediaries devoted to finding clients for tax exemptions. Based on interviews with 28 investors who feel they have been abused (many of them have started legal proceedings against professionals from whom they bought a property), this study provides a new entry for analyzing legal intermediation, showing that it does not affect all laypeople in the same way, especially when looking at the latter’s social and economic resources. We analyze how and with what devices professionals, whose commercial practices are not fully regulated by law, rely on the law for the success of their transactions, especially with taxpayers who have money to become investors but who are not rich enough to pay for the services of a tax professional. We argue that the ability to resist the appeal of putting money into investments that turned out risky depends on investors’ social and economic resources. Finally, we analyze how the process of legal intermediation described in this chapter impacts investors’ legal consciousness and creates distrust toward the law.


Adopting an intra-organizational viewpoint is essential to grasp legal intermediation. To deepen our understanding of such phenomena, this chapter proposes a qualitative and “multi-level” approach drawing on insights from the neo-institutional literature, policy ethnography analysis and the research on legal intermediaries. Such a perspective is particularly suited to capture the complexity and the depth of institutional change. Using the 12-hour work legal mechanism of derogation in the context of French public hospitals as an example, this chapter highlights how both macro-level actors (actors of a “reform network”), and micro-level ones (hospital directors) contribute to the shaping and framing of legality in French public hospitals. Results show that variation in how those actors use law depends on the local configuration. Second, results demonstrate that the legal games they play are not merely based on symbolic and superficial compliance with the law, but also on outright manipulations and conscious rule-breaking.


Legal intermediation is an emerging theoretical concept developed to grasp the importance of the process and actors who contribute to legal endogenization, in particular in the field of economic activities and work governed by various public regulations. This chapter proposes to extend the analytical category of legal intermediary to all actors who, even if they are not legal professionals, deal on a daily basis with legal categories and provisions. In order to deepen our understanding of these actors and their contribution to how organizations frame legality, this chapter investigates four examples of legal intermediaries who are not legal professionals. Based on field surveys conducted over the past 15 years in France on employment policy, industrial relations, occupational health and safety regulation, and forensic economics, I make three contributions. First, the cases show the diversity of legal intermediaries and their growing and increasingly reflexive roles in our complex economies. Second, while they are not legal professionals per se, to different degrees, these legal intermediaries assume roles similar to those of legal professionals such as legislators, judges, lawyers, inspectors, cops, and even clerks. Finally, depending on their level of legitimacy and power, I show how legal intermediaries take part in the process of legal endogenization and how they more broadly frame ordinary legality.


Based on an in-depth case study in the French nuclear industry, this chapter describes what happens when law’s ambiguity meets organizational complexity. While regulation studies suggest that organizations assign managerial values (such as efficiency or flexibility) to their compliance structures, this research focuses on the mixed role of purchasing managers in these processes. Constituting the missing link when explaining the legal regulation of economic activities, these intermediaries defend a financial conception of the firm against a more technical performance oriented solution. This financial conception did not emerge from nowhere, but resulted from the institutionalization of a particular meaning of business regulation within the nuclear industry. However, if values guide organizational behavior, the behavior of the actors can under no circumstances be reduced to these values. Conflicts, misunderstandings, and mistakes are a constitutive part of these process, too.


The legal devices crafted within large organizations are a key component of legal endogeneity theory (LET). While symbolically complying with legislation, legal devices allow organizations to infuse managerial logics into the legal field, which eventually diverts law from its initial political goals. Although the LET has considered legal devices such as anti-discrimination guidelines and grievance procedures, this chapter argues that contracts also constitute a locus of symbolic compliance and contribute to the eventual endogenization of regulation. Supplementing LET with a focus on legal intermediation, this chapter explores how contracts are crafted and used by large organizations to respond to regulatory pressure. While other legal instruments are unambiguously managerialized from the outset, contracts are highly versatile legal objects that perform the seemingly opposite functions of symbolically complying with regulation and serving substantive commercial purposes. This discussion of the role of contracts as compliance mechanisms is based on an in-depth empirical study of the French retail industry and its response to a set of regulations that aimed at making their business practices fairer.

Cover of Legal Intermediation
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Studies in Law, Politics, and Society
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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