Prof. Margaret Thornton

Prof. Margaret Thornton

Professor of Law
ANU College of Law
The Australian National University

Short Bio

Professor Margaret Thornton (FASSA, FAAL) of the Australian National University, Canberra, is a sociolegal and feminist scholar whose work on the legal academy and the legal profession is internationally recognised. She has an extensive publication record and her books include Dissonance and Distrust: Women in the Legal Profession (Oxford, 1996; Law Press, Beijing 2001). Her current funded research focuses on work/life balance in corporate law firms, particularly the gendered effects of globalisation, competition and technology.

Speaker Statement

Although women are now a majority of practitioners in private law firms, numerosity is by no means the end of the matter. As Londa Schiebinger (2017) points out, ‘fixing the numbers’ must be followed by ‘fixing the institutions’ (structural change) and ‘fixing the knowledge’ (integrating gender-based analysis into research). It appears that we are still struggling with the second and third stages.

This presentation will address the changing status of women in the legal profession, with illustrations from Australia and elsewhere. An ongoing difficulty for women is that the ideal worker is constructed as unencumbered, that is, free from caring responsibilities.

While flexible work theoretically enables work and life to be ‘balanced’, primary caregiving continues to be stigmatised, particularly when undertaken by men. It will be argued that the conundrum of who cares is the challenge of the moment, not just in the legal profession, but in society more generally.

Recent papers

Margaret Thornton, ‘Work/Lifeor Work/Work? Corporate Legal Practice in the Twenty-first Century’ (2016)23(1) International J Legal Profession13-39

Margaret Thornton, ‘TheFlexible Cyborg: Work/Life Balance in the Legal Profession’ (2016) 38(1) Sydney Law Review 1-21

reprinted in Rechtswissenschaftliche Beiträge der Hamburger Sozialökonomie, Heft8, August 2016…/heft8-margaret-thornton-work-life-balance-final.pdf.

Margaret Thornton, ‘Squeezing the Life out of Lawyers: Legal Practice in the Market Embrace’ (2016) 25(4) Griffith Law Review 471-491


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