Our Students - Profiles

John Bliss


Year: Doctorate in JSP

Email: jbliss@law.harvard.edu


John Bliss holds a JD from Berkeley Law (2010) and recently completed his PhD in UC Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Law School, Center on the Legal Profession. His work offers a comparative multi-method lens on the interactions between lawyers’ professional identity and public-interest ideals. His dissertation, "The Dynamics of the Professional Self: Findings from Law School and Early Law Careers," examined U.S. law school socialization through interviews, ethnography, and identity mapping. In his postdoc, he is focusing on: (1) professional identity formation among Chinese lawyers, (2) pro bono rationales and case selection in AmLaw firms, and (3) an archival project on conceptions of legal professionalism and property rights in the discourses around racially restrictive covenants.


Ph.D., 2016, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, UC Berkeley
J.D. 2010, UC Berkeley School of Law
B.A. 2004, Anthropology, Comparative History of Ideas, University of Washington


Legal profession, law and social change, Chinese law and society, legal education, property law, empirical methods in law.


Harvard Law School, Center on the Legal Profession, Resident Fellowship 2016-2017
Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies Fellowship 2014-15
Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award 2014
Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Fellowship 2014
Jurisprudence and Social Policy Fellowship 2013–14
UC Berkeley Dean’s Normative Time Fellowship 2012–13
UC Berkeley Graduate Division Summer Grant 2012, 2013
Selznick Fellowship 2009–10
Bonderman Travel Fellowship 2003–04
May Gates Leadership Fellowship 2002–03
Evans Scholarship 2000–04

Academic Experiences:

Law and Society Association, Mexico City, MX. June 2017.
____ “Becoming Lawyers: Mapping Professional Identity Formation in the U.S. and China”
UC Irvine Center for Empirical Research on Legal Education. Irvine, CA. June 2017.
____ “From Idealists to Hired Guns? An Empirical Analysis of “Public Interest Drift” in Law School”
Association for Law, Property & Society. University of Michigan. May 2017.
____ “Entitlement and Ownership: Competing Conceptions of Property Rights in the Discourses Around Racially Restrictive Covenants”
China-US Lawyers Forum, Harvard University. March 2017.
____“Comparing Professional Identity Among Lawyers in the U.S. and China”
American Bar Foundation. Chicago, IL. March 2017.
____“Becoming Lawyers: Mapping Professional Identity Formation in the U.S. and China”
Harvard Law School, Center on the Legal Profession Speaker Series. September 2016.
____“Transitioning into Practice: Professional Identity Formation Among Lawyers”
Yale Law School Doctoral Scholarship Conference. New Haven, CT. November 2016.
____“Socialization and Professionalism in the Chinese Corporate Bar”
American Anthropological Association. Denver, CO. 2015.
____“Defining Drift: An Identity-Work Analysis of 'Public Interest Drift' in Law School.”
Stanford Program in Law and Society Conference for Junior Scholars. Palo Alto, CA. May 2015.
University of British Columbia Interdisciplinary Legal Studies Graduate Student Conference. Vancouver, BC. May 2015
____“Divided Selves: Professional Role Distancing among Law Students and New Lawyers.”
Law and Society Association. Seattle, WA. May 2015
____"Deconstructing Drift: Privilege and Public Interest Drift in Law School." Organizer and chair of panel, "Race and Privilege in Legal Education."
Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. Charlottesville, VA. 2014.
____“Alienation from the ‘Law’ in ‘Lawyer’: Legal Consciousness among Law Students.”

Employment Experiences:

Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, Program Participant 2014
Alameda County Department of Public Health, Researcher 2009–11
Berkeley Law, Professor Jonathan Simon, Research Assistant 2010–11
Berkeley Law, Professor Jeff Selbin, Research Assistant 2009–10

Sociology of Law 2014
Introduction to Legal Studies 2013
Chinese Law and Society 2012, 2013, 2015 "Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor" award
Law, Self, and Society 2010, 2011
Theories of Law and Society 2011
Introduction to Quantitative Methods 2010

Dissertation Abstract:

The Dynamics of the Professional Self: Findings from Law School and Early Law Careers

The empirical literature on U.S. legal education suggests that learning to “think like a lawyer” requires students to bifurcate personal values and the professional self. Legal scholars perennially debate whether this bifurcation results in an alienated and “bleached out” professionalism or a relatively benign sacrifice of personal preferences in favor of the client-centered principle of “neutral partisanship.” This dissertation brings these normative and empirical perspectives into conversation through an exploratory microdynamic study of lawyers’ professional identity formation at an elite law school. Drawing on 153 longitudinal interviews, a novel identity mapping method, and ethnographic observations, I examine how law students conceive of their emerging professional selves relative to other roles in their lives, how these conceptions change over the course of legal education, and how this empirical analysis may alter normative debates on professional socialization.