How does a city law firm deal with leadership development?

Hever, James A. ORCID: (2005) How does a city law firm deal with leadership development? Doctorate (other than PhD) thesis, University of Southern Queensland. (Unpublished)


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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) (Doctorate (other than PhD))
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
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business - No Department (Up to 31 Dec 2010)
Supervisors: Millet, Bruce
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:32
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 00:47
Uncontrolled Keywords: city, law firms, city law firms, professional service firms, leadership development, organizational development, organisational
Fields of Research (2008): 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
Fields of Research (2020): 48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4805 Legal systems > 480505 Legal practice, lawyering and the legal profession
35 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 3507 Strategy, management and organisational behaviour > 350710 Organisational behaviour

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