The sociology of professions has derived most of its theories from empirical cases in the Global North. Despite the growing number of empirical studies on professionals in developing countries, the intersection between professions and development has rarely been theorized. This article uses the case of legal services professionals in China to outline an ecological theory of professions and development. It argues that, in the Global South, professions and development are overlapping ecologies that share some common actors and transform by similar social processes. Professionals occupy at least four different positions in the ecology of development: as facilitators of global institutional diffusion, as delegates of the nation-state, as brokers between global and national market institutions, and as activists of local social resistance. In the process of development, those four types of professionals are often in conflict, and the ecology of professions differentiates among them by means of their social interactions in issue areas such as economic growth, access to justice, and human rights.

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