- Elgar original reference
Edited by Markus Reihlen and Andreas Werr
Chapter 19: Entrepreneurship, managerialism and professionalism in action: the case of the legal profession in England and Wales
The world of the professions is a world of lasting stereotypes, rhetorical claims and deceptive appearances; it is a world where often things are not as they are claimed to be or even as they initially appear to be. In particular, there seems to be a certain gap between public conceptions and imageries of professionalism (often including the professions' own selfrepresentations) and current realities of professional work and organization (Sugarman & Pue, 2004). The world of professionalism has historically been represented as qualitatively different to the world of commerce, business and industry. Indeed, professionalism has often been defined as a specific occupational principle distinct from alternative work organization methods such as entrepreneurship and managerialism (Freidson, 2001). Notions and vocabularies of public interest, erudition, collegiality, self-regulation and individual autonomy or responsibility are routinely emphasized in both orthodox accounts and public representations of the professions. This is viewed as an alternative if not a palliative or corrective to the cut-throat world of business dominated by large bureaucratic organizations, competitive markets, managerial control, deskilling or dehumanizing tendencies and a markedly for-profit logic. It is of course debatable whether such understandings of the professions were ever accurate or if they were simply an unquestioned part of the mythology of the professions designed to render privileges and restrictive practices more palatable and publicly acceptable. This is increasingly so given some wide-ranging developments in the realities of professional work and its organization. Contemporary professionalism is certainly no small-scale affair, and the global professional services firms which employ thousands of practitioners in dozens of jurisdictions, providing the infrastructure of transnational capitalism, are far removed from the small, informal and familiar realities of a past era, when professional practice meant self-practice or partnership with a few others (usually relatives) (Abel, 1988). Today the majority of professionals are not self-employed but employees in large autonomous or heteronomous professional organizations (Larson, 1977). Employment status is certainly relevant, as it implies an exposure to managerial principles and bureaucratic practices, thus constraining traditional notions of professional autonomy, discretion and independence (Faulconbridge & Muzio, 2008; Raelin, 1991). Equally important, large professional services firms explicitly embody an entrepreneurial spirit, as they try to compete by continuously developing new markets, competences and products or services for their corporate clientele (Brock, Powell & Hinings, 1999; Cooper, Hinings, Greenwood & Brown, 1996; Empson, 2007). The result is a commercialized version of professionalism (Brint, 1994; Hanlon, 1998) where the premium lies in adding value (and crucially demonstrating value) to clients through the real-time delivery of technical solutions which address real or perceived business needs.
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