Swethaa Ballakrishnen

Assistant Professor of Law

By courtesy, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Asian American Studies, and Criminology, Law and Society

Co-Director, Center for Empirical Research on the Legal Profession

Steering Committee Member and Faculty Affiliate, Center in Law, Society & Culture

Co-Convener, Socio-Legal Studies Workshop


Legal Profession, Gender, Critical Feminist and Queer Theory, Global Souths, India


Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen is a socio-legal scholar whose research examines the intersections between law, globalization and stratification from a critical feminist perspective. Particularly, across a range of sites and different levels of analysis, their work interrogates how law and legal institutions create, continue, and counter different kinds of socio-economic inequalities. Together, these motivations have resulted in three main areas of empirical inquiry. The first is a set of interrelated projects that analyze gender inequality and representation through the lens of comparative legal institutions. The second concentrates on inclusivity in global legal education and the resultant implications for organizational diversity within the legal profession. A third emerging field of interest focuses on transnational migration and its implications for intergenerational mobility, international human rights, and transnational family law.

Scholarship from these projects has appeared in, among other journals, Law and Society Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Fordham Law Review, International Journal of the Legal Profession, and the Journal of Professions and Organization. Their first book, Accidental Feminism (Princeton University Press: 2021), unpacks the case of unintentional gender parity among India’s elite legal professionals; a second book Invisible Institutions (Hart Publishing: 2021, ed. with Sara Dezalay) brings together cross-subjective perspectives on legal globalization; and a third forthcoming book Gender Regimes and the Politics of Privacy (Zubaan Books, with Kalpana Kannabiran) investigates the gendered legacies of India’s privacy jurisprudence. 

Alongside this scholarly output, Professor Ballakrishnen’s research has been featured in a range of professional and popular media including Harvard Business Review, Stanford News Report, Above the Law, Bloomberg Law, Quartz, Law School Transparency Radio, The Practice, and WPR. They have presented research at over 50 conferences worldwide, delivered over 25 invited talks in a range of academic and professional settings, and their legal opinions on family and financial laws have been cited by the Probate and Family Court of Massachusetts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit respectively.

Professor Ballakrishnen is committed to building and serving socio-legal communities that focus on critical questions concerning legal education and the profession. At UCI, they co-run the Center for Empirical Research on the Legal Profession, the Socio-Legal Studies Workshop, and the Law, Society, and Culture Emphasis. In addition, beyond UCI, they are an affiliated faculty at the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, on the board of trustees of the Law and Society Association (LSA) and the ISA Research Committee on Sociology of Law, a co-founder of the LSA Collaborative Research Network on Legal Education, and on the Executive Committee of the AALS Section on Empirical Study of Legal Education and the Legal Profession. In 2017-18, they were the AccessLex Visiting Scholar on Legal Education at the American Bar Foundation. In 2020, Professor Ballakrishnen was named a AALS Teacher of the Year

For over a decade before entering academia full-time, Professor Ballakrishnen was a legal intern to Hon’ble Justice Arijit Pasayat of the Supreme Court of India, an international banking associate in Mumbai, and an external consultant for cross-border litigation financing in New York City.

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Book Chapters

  • 2020. Ballakrishnen, Swethaa. "India's Legal Profession: Present and Future, A Revised Sociological Portrait." | Lawyers in 21st Century Society, Eds. Rick Abel, Ole Hammerslev, Hilary Sommerlad, and Ulrike Schultz, Hart Publishing, pp – 713-733
  • 2020. Ballakrishnen, Swethaa and Carole Silver. "Language, Culture, and the Culture of Language: International JD Students in US Law Schools." | Power, Legal Education and Law School Cultures, Eds. Elizabeth Mertz, Meera Deo and Mindie Lazarus-Black. Routledge, pp – 191-223


Invited Talks

  • Dec. 14, 2021:
    Presenter, Accidental Feminism, National Law School of India Public Lecture Series, Online
  • Dec. 9, 2021:
    Presenter, Accidental Feminism, New York University, Abu Dhabi, Online
  • Nov. 18, 2021:
    Presenter, Young Arbitral Women Practitioners Panel, Online
  • Nov. 14, 2021:
    Presenter, Fordham Law School Faculty Workshop, Online
  • Sept. 9, 2021
    Panelist, Women in Law Conference, Online
  • Aug. 6-10, 2021
    Featured Speaker, American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Online
  • July 5, 2021
    Featured Speaker, Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics Conference, Online
  • June 22, 2021
    Featured Speaker, South Asian Bar Association North America Conference, Online
  • June 10, 2021
    Featured Speaker, AALS Workshop for Beginner Empiricists, Online
  • May 31, 2021
    Featured Speaker, Suites, Streets and States Plenary, American Bar Foundation, Online
  • May 27-30, 2021
    Featured Speaker, Law and Society Annual Meeting, Online
  • April 30, 2021
    Featured Speaker, landing: Unpacking empire and ourselves I, Socio-Legal Studies Workshop and University Art Gallery, Online
  • April 29, 2021
    Featured Speaker, "Accidental Feminism: Gender Parity and Selective Mobility Among India's Professional Elite," Center for South Asia, Stanford University, Online
  • April 26, 2021
    Panelist, LPE, Inclusion & Public Law, Law and Political Economy Conference, Online
  • March 30, 2021
    Featured Speaker, Accidental Feminism, Centre for Law & Social Change, City University of London, Online
  • March 5, 2021
    Featured Speaker, Harvard Business Review Women at Work: Women in Law Connect, Online
  • 2021
    "Presumed Intolerant: Muslim Lawyers and Blasé Discrimination," Race, Racism, and Law Workshop, Duke University School of Law
  • 2020
    "Accidental Feminism," UC Berkeley School of Law Faculty Workshop
  • March 3, 2020
    "International JD Students in US Law Schools," Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA
  • Dec. 4, 2019
    "A Conversation with Marc Galanter: Reflections on a Life in Legal Studies, Asian Studies and the Sudy of Social Inequality," NYU Abu Dhabi Global Asia Initiative, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Dec. 4, 2019
    "Bhopal, Thirty Five Years After," NYU Abu Dhabi Global Asia Initiative, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Nov. 8, 2019 
    “Leading Differently Across Difference: Intersectional Gendered Alterities,” Freedman Institute National Leadership Conference. Association of the Bar of the City of New York, New York
  • Oct. 7 & 17, 2019“Accidental Equality: Rethinking Frameworks of Legal Institutions in the Global South”
    • Korea University-UCI Symposium. Korea University Law School, Seoul
    • Global and International Studies Forum. University of California, Irvine
  • Sept. 7, 2019
    “Difference Blindness v. Bias Awareness: Why Law Firms With Good Diversity Intentions Still Fail,” LA County Bar Association Diversity Conference, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • March 8 & June 8-9, 2019
    “It is Not (Unless It Is) Discrimination: Model Rules 8.4(g), 1.16, and The Idea Of Good Counsel”
    • Legal Ethics Schmooze. University of California Irvine School of Law, Irvine
    • Third Annual Legal Ethics Conference. California Western School of Law, San Diego 
  • Feb. 21, 2019
    "Intentional Invisibility: Professional Women and the Navigation of Workplace Constraints,"Invited Speaker, Center for the Legal Profession, Stanford Law School, Stanford
  • Dec. 6, 2018
    Transnational Feminisms: Building Solidarities Across Regions and Disciplinary Perspectives. NYU Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • March 14, 2018
    “Just Like Global Firms: Unintended Gender Parity and Speculative Isomorphism in India’s Legal Profession.” Carlos III-Juan Institute Comparative Sociology Speaker Series. Madrid, Spain
  • Dec. 16, 2017
    “The Corporate Legal Sector’s Impact on India.” HLS GLEE Book Launch Conference. Delhi, India
  • Dec. 8-9, 2017
    “Regulation of Legal and Judicial Services.” Stein Center for Law and Ethics. Fordham Law School, New York City
  • July 21-22, 2017
    “Women Legal Academics in India: Who They Are and Where you Need to Look for Them.” Legal Ethics Schmooze. UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles 
  • March 3-4, 2017
    “The Importance of Being International?” Legal Education in Crisis Conference. American Bar Foundation, Chicago
  • May 4 & Oct. 8, 2016
“Doing Gender Differently: India’s Elite Professional Firms As Petri Dishes For Nouveau Essentialism”
  • ABF Speaker Series. American Bar Foundation, Chicago
  • Inequality Speaker Series. Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  • March 10, 2016
    “The Gendered Ideal Worker: Globalization, Gender and Labor In The Legal Profession.” Department of Law & Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender Studies, American University in Cairo, Egypt
  • Dec. 14-15, 2015
    “Why Hari And Kumar (Don’t) Come To Australia: The Comparative Case of International Law Students.” Symposium on International Law Students, University of New South Wales Law School, Australia
  • 2014-5
“Same Same But Different: New Firms, Transitional Markets and Gender Egalitarianism.”
  • Cambridge Judge Business School Research Seminar Series. Cambridge University, UK
  • The City Law School’s Critical Corporation Workshop Series. City University, UK
  • Stanford Center for South Asia Brown Bag Series. Stanford University, Palo Alto 
  • Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession Speaker Series. Harvard Law School, Cambridge

Conference Presentations