How does a city law firm deal with leadership development?

Hever, James A. (2005) How does a city law firm deal with leadership development? Other thesis, University of Southern Queensland.


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Leadership capability is acknowledged as a critical success factor for most businesses. Traditionally, law firms have not accorded this significance to leadership and its development. This has been because of the nature of law firms as professional service firms, with their emphasis on individual autonomy, and a sole practitioner mentality on the part of lawyers. Over the last fifteen years, the legal industry in the United Kingdom has witnessed a dramatic growth in size, revenue and profitability of a small number of law firms. More recently, leadership capability has been acknowledged as having played a critical role in achieving their success. Leadership in these firms has been compared to that in corporate organizations and regarded as contributing to the corporatisation of law firms and undermining the autonomy of partners in particular. This is an exploratory study to investigate how a City law firm addresses the issue of leadership development. The research problem addressed is: How does a City law firm deal with leadership development? This is a study in the fields of leadership, leadership development and organizational development with particular reference to professional service firms. It has been acknowledged as the first systematic research on leadership development in the legal industry. Seven research questions were developed from the literature. These provided a focus for data collection. The single case study methodology was used to provide an in-depth investigation and information rich data. Data was gathered from the five strategic business units of the firm, which constituted five embedded sub-cases, thereby providing the advantages of multiple case study methodology. In-depth interviews were conducted with six members of each division, chosen by means of purposive sampling to provide investigation at six levels in accordance with organizational role and level of qualification as lawyers. The research design was based on the established procedures and quality controls of qualitative and case study methodology within the critical realism paradigm. Analysis was based primarily on cross-case analysis and pattern matching for the purpose of analytic generalization about the research issues. Because of the significance of the role played by experiential and organizational learning in leadership development the iterative learning cycle is used to map and report the progress of the investigation itself, thereby constituting the study as one in experiential and organizational learning. Overall, the findings challenge much of the existing literature on law firm management. They also challenge some of the existing literature on change in law firms based on quantitative research. The major contribution of the study is the discovery of how lawyers perceive the impact of change on their business and profession, what skills and abilities they perceive as essential for effective leadership in a law firm now, how partners in particular see their own roles in these contexts, and how lawyers suggest leadership capability should be developed. The study makes an additional contribution by developing a model to understand how the interplay of individual perceptions of change, leadership and one's own role affects the development of the firm. This model could be used to analyse the interplay of these perceptions and how these can be modified in implementing change. Directions for further research are proposed.

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Item Type: Thesis (Non-Research) (Other)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) (Pre-2008) thesis. The DBA as accredited from 1998 to 2007 was a professional doctorate with both coursework and research dissertation components. Author can be contacted at
Depositing User: epEditor USQ
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - No Department
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:32
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:35
Uncontrolled Keywords: city, law firms, city law firms, professional service firms, leadership development, organizational development, organisational
Fields of Research (FOR2008): 18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180121 Legal Practice, Lawyering and the Legal Profession
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150311 Organisational Behaviour

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