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25 Law and Society Review 41 (1991)


Apparently naive, but in fact not, is the question: What do lawyers do? Many scholars assume the central role of the lawyer is that of the advocate, but among lawyers working in law firms advocacy consumes little of their time. Similarly, the term lawyer provides hardly any meaning in itself. The research presented here is based on a participant-observation study of a corporate law firm. The central thesis proposed, in the light of case studies of the selling of shopping mall and the arranging of a bank loan, is that business lawyers are engaged in managing uncertainty for both their clients and themselves. Managing uncertainty is ccomplished through interaction rather than appeals to the law.