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The author presents, in contrast to market-oriented understandings of lawyers in England and the United States, a radically different interpretation of lawyers' action in society which has politics at its core. Based on the French experience from 1274 until 1994, this book stimulates a reappraisal of lawyers' collective action in English-speaking countries as well as on the Continent.;In a unique and lively combination of history and sociology, the book follows the evolution of French lawyers from the birth of the bar to the present day. Their history encompasses three different forms of the profession and three distinct types of lawyers. The ""State bar"", which existed in the remote past, was based on individual navigation between the courts of justice and the royal court. The ""Public"" or ""Classical bar"", which lasted from the end of the seventeenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, was centered around politics and as a result became one of the builders of the liberal State. Finally, contemporary lawyers are increasingly dominated by the ""Business bar"", and their practices form the basis of a systematic study of the market, hierarchy, work, sociability and self-government.;The author aims to advance and test a wide range of new theories: on collegial power; on collective action, by explaining how a profession can become a lasting political movement or a how weak political actor can become a ruling elite; on the state and intermediate groups; on professional markets, by proposing an ""economics of quality"" in place of neoclassical economics. He also presents creative perspectives on lawyers' stratification and sociability.;Through the presentation of a singular case, and the blending of qualitative and quantitative methods, this book aims to develop an original perspective in socio-legal studies and historical sociology. It also makes important contributions to the sociology of professions, to the study of collective action, and to economic and political sociology.