Event Reports

Event: Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas launched at Cass.

Senior professionals, academics, students, and members of the Centre for Professional Service Firms gathered in Cass on 4 October 2017 to celebrate the launch of Professor Laura Empson’s new book, Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas.

Professor Empson introduced the major themes of the book, which is the result of more than 20 years of research into professional firms and their leaders. Her speech was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Stefan Stern, Visiting Professor of Practice at Cass Business School, and featuring  Margaret Cole, Chief Risk Officer and General Counsel, Board Member, PwC; Sir Gerry Grimstone, Chairman, Standard Life Aberdeen; and David Morley, previously Global Senior Partner, Allen & Overy.

Watch the video Launch of Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas

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Leadership, Professionals, and Power: See Report

The theme of the 2016 Summer Leadership Symposium was: "Leadership, Professionals, and Power”. Organised by the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms and held in association with Allen & Overy, it turned out to be “one amazing day”.

We were joined by over 100 leading scholars, senior professionals, regulators, and clients from around the world to discuss the challenges, implications, and prospects for leadership and power in the changing context of professional work. Our debates were organised and around four related themes: (i) Leading autonomous followers; (ii) The dark side of leadership; (iii) Regulators, professionals and power; and (iv) Expert leadership and leading experts.

Read the report

Gender gap among elite professionals: Exploring the fault lines

Dr Kate Blackmon of Oxford University presented her research on the origins of the gender performance gap, based on her analysis of the educational and career patterns of male and female Rhodes Scholars.

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Professor Roy Suddaby speaks on “The professionalization of the corporate historian”


Roy Suddaby (University of Victoria) visited Cass recently to present his study which examines the intimate but unarticulated relationship between professions and institutions. His paper elaborates the argument that, as a dominant institution, the corporation has replaced the nation-state as the primary engine for generating new professions.

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Professor Isaac Waisberg speaks on “The engineering of novelty in a large management consulting firm”


Isaac Waisberg (Tel Aviv University) visited Cass recently to present his study of the mechanisms that enable a consulting firm to successfully balance the exploration and exploitation of professional knowledge.

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“Do clients always come first in professional partnerships?” New research

Professor Hans van Oosterhout (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University) visited Cass recently to present his study entitled “Do clients always come first in professional partnerships? A multi-level study of complaints against lawyers in Dutch law firms.”

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Leadership and change in the public eye - Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC, speaks at the CPSF

Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC, Baron Hall of Birkenhead, shared his experiences of leading global organisations at an event organised by the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms last month. The veteran BBC journalist and former CEO of the Royal Opera House took part in an hour-long interview with Professor Laura Empson. From dealing with internal politics to working out who to trust, and from rebuilding confidence in an organisation to getting conflicting personalities to work together, Lord Hall shared a compelling series of leadership insights and anecdotes from his 40 year career.

Watch highlights from Lord Hall's interview

Watch full version of Lord Hall's interview

Professor Ian Kirkpatrick speaks on "(Under) managed professional service organisations"

Professor Ian Kirkpatrick, Director of the Social Science Institute at the University of Leeds, gave a fascinating research seminar at Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms on 6th November on the topic of:"Public sector re-structuring and the emergence of (under) managed professional service organisations: evidence from the English NHS"

Abstract and Biography

Power and Politics in professional service firms

Laura Empson launched her new report for practitioners: Reluctant leaders and autonomous followers - Leadership Tactics in Professional Service Firms to a packed auditorium of senior professional service firm practitioners and MBA students. Following the presentation she was joined on-stage by two leading figures from the professional service world - Mike Cullen, Global Managing Partner (People), EY; David Morley, Worldwide Senior Partner, Allen & Overy - for a lively discussion of the research led by Stefan Stern, Cass Visiting Professor and Financial Times columnist.

Read about the event

Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms Colloquium at Cass

In September many of the worlds leading PSF scholars gathered at Cass for a colloquium on the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms. The event was followed by a Paper Development Masterclass for Early Career Researchers working in this field.

Read about the Colloquium

Olivier Chatain of Wharton gives a research seminar at Cass

In June Olivier Chatain presented his paper 'Deploying individual-level resources under constraints: Evidence from the UK M&A legal advisory market'

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Who's in charge? Exploring leadership dynamics in professional service firms

24 June 2013
A large audience of leading practitioners gathered at Cass for the launch of Professor Laura Empson's research report.

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Read about the launch event

Read The Times article (subscription required)

The Centre hosts an academic seminar

3 October 2012
Professor Forrest Briscoe, Associate Professor of Management at Penn State Smeal College of Business, spoke recently at an academic seminar hosted by Cass Business School and the Centre for Professional Service Firms, on 13 September 2012.

At the seminar, Forrest presented his research on how technology affects workplace relationships, using evidence of KMS implementation in a corporate law firm.
Read the Report [pdf]

Leadership in the Plural: Insights from Professional Organizations

1 October 2012
A symposium at the 2012 Academy of Management conference in Boston designed to showcase scholarship in this developing area, and to examine the potential for learning across different kinds of professional organisations.
Read the Report [pdf]

"Leading Professionals" Conference

20 April 2012 This academic conference, which represented an unprecedented gathering of leading scholars in the field of leadership and professional organisations, explored the distinctive challenges of leadership in professional organisations.
Read the Report [pdf]

Professor Mats Alvesson gives Leadership Seminar

25 October 2011
Leading management scholar Professor Mats Alvesson spoke at an academic seminar hosted by the CPSF. He talked about leadership, specifically the alignment and misfit of images in leadership relations.
Read the Report [pdf]

The evolution of consultancy: Innovation, ideas and trends

24 October 2011
The CPSF, together with the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM), held a half day workshop at Cass Business School entitled: The evolution of consultancy: Innovation, ideas and trends. The workshop reported on two high profile studies of innovation in the consultancy industry and the consequences for the industry, procurement and clients. Two new reports based on the research were distributed at the event.
Management innovation in the UK consulting industry. Dr Joe O'Mahoney (Cardiff University). Read the Report [pdf]
Internal consultants as agents of change. Professor Andrew Sturdy (University of Bristol) and Dr Nick Wylie (Oxford Brookes University). Read the Report [pdf]

Leadership in the plural: Forms, practices and dynamics

August 2011
The CPSF, together with a number of leading scholars, held a symposium at the Academy of Management Conference in San Antonio entitled - Leadership in the plural: Forms, practices and dynamics. Co-chairs and organisers Laura Empson and Ann Langley brought together a group of researchers investigating different forms of plural leadership in the context of professional organisations.
Read the Report [pdf]

What holds a successful professional service firm together?

20 July 2011
The Centre held its fifth discussion forum on 6 July 2011 at Cass Business School. Professor Laura Empson (Centre Director), Damien O'Brien (Chairman and CEO, Egon Zehnder International), William Rucker (Chief Executive, Lazard) and Christopher Saul (Senior Partner, Slaughter and May) explored the following question: What holds a successful professional service firm together? They were joined by an audience of professionals, academics, and MBA students in a lively, stimulating, and sometimes surprising discussion.
Read the Report [pdf]

The Centre hosts two academic seminars

3 May 2011
Dr Daniel Muzio from Leeds University Business School visited the Centre in March 2011 and presented his research on UK law firms' attempts to enter the Italian legal market.  Dr Joe O'Mahoney from Cardiff Business School visited in April 2011 and presented the early findings of his research project relating to management innovation in UK consultancies.
Read Daniel's report [pdf]
Read Joe's report [pdf]

A new work bargain for professionals?

10 November 2010
The Centre held its fourth discussion forum on 10 November 2010 at Cass Business School. Professor Laura Empson (Centre Director), Dame Janet Gaymer DBE QC (Visiting Professor of Practice, Cass Business School), Neil Sherlock (Partner, Public and Regulatory Affairs, KPMG) and Stefan Stern (Visiting Professor of Practice, Cass Business School, and Director of Strategy, Edelman) addressed the following questions: Does the professional work bargain, the deal which professionals strike with their firms as part of the employment relationship, need to change? If it does, how should it change? Joining them were 150 professionals, academics, and MBA students who contributed to a lively and thought-provoking debate.
Read the Report [pdf]

The rise of the professional manager: Leadership and change in professional service firms

28 April 2010
The Centre held its third discussion forum on 28 April 2010 at Cass Business School. Professor Laura Empson (Centre Director), Ruth Carnall CBE (Chief Executive, NHS London), Christopher Horne (Global Chief Operating Officer for Investment Banking Division, Credit Suisse) and David Morley (Worldwide Senior Partner, Allen & Overy) reflected on the question: What makes an effective manager in an organisation of professionals? These leaders from three very different sectors were brought together to explore the common challenges they faced when managing professionals. Joining the debate were 110 professionals, academics, and MBA students.
Read the Report [pdf]

The globalising professional service firm

25 March 2010
Dr David M Brock from Ben-Gurion University, Israel, visited the Centre in March and presented his research on the globalisation of professional service firms to an academic audience.
Read the Report [pdf]

ESRC seminar series: "Conceptualising the contemporary professions"

12 January 2010
Professor Bob Hinings was the keynote speaker at the fourth and final event of the ESRC seminar series which was held on 12 January 2010. The focus of the seminar was on the challenge of change in professional service firms.
Read the Report [pdf]

The way ahead: Leadership and change in challenging times

4 November 2009
The Centre held its second discussion forum on 4 November 2009 at Cass Business School. Professor Laura Empson (Centre Director), Richard Murley (Managing Director and Co-Head of UK Investment Banking, Rothschild), Jeremy Newman (Global CEO, BDO International), and Stuart Popham (Senior Partner, Clifford Chance, and Chairman of TheCity UK) were joined by over 100 senior professionals, policy makers, and MBA students to consider the impact of the financial crisis on professional service firms and to discuss: What has changed forever and what is fundamental and will endure?
Read the Report [pdf]

Leadership and change in challenging times

30 April 2009
The Centre held its inaugural discussion forum on 30 April 2009 at Cass Business School. Professor Laura Empson (Centre Director), John Griffith-Jones (KPMG, Chairman, EMA Region), and Tony Angel (Standard & Poor's, Executive Managing Director, EMEA) were joined by over 100 senior professionals, policy makers, and MBA students to discuss the following question: Do professional service firms hold powerful leadership lessons for all organisations or will the current economic crisis put their existing model of leadership under unsustainable pressure?
Read the Report [pdf]

Identity and contested concepts of professionalism

21 January 2009
The Centre hosted its first academic seminar on 21 January 2009. Mats Alvesson gave the keynote talk, alongside presentations by Yiannis Gabriel, Andrew Brown, Laura Empson, and Cliff Oswick (on behalf of Maxine Robertson). Over 30 academics participated from the UK and abroad.
Read the Report [pdf]

Betting on the big four

30 October 2008
Peter Sherer of the University of Calgary visited the Centre and presented his research on the history of US law firms to an academic audience. From the historical data he has also gathered on UK law firms he has developed some predictions about their future performance.

Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms is officially launched

20 October 2008
The Centre was officially launched on 20 October 2008 with a reception at Haberdasher's Hall. A number of senior representatives from the leading professional service firms attended. Professor Empson explained her reasons for establishing the centre, introduced the team and outlined the research agenda.
Read an excerpt of her speech [pdf]