Careers in professional service firms - Future of Work research centre - University of Bath - School of Management

Future of Work research centre

University of Bath School of Management

Careers in professional service firms

The growth of professional service firms has challenged many existing assumptions about the nature of careers.

Our research examines some of the resulting issues in two ways.

Career mobility in the legal profession

Project lead: Dr Stefanie Gustafsson
Funding: ESRC Future Research Leader Scheme

Stefanie is examining how lawyers and paralegals experience and make sense of their careers and their career choices.

Paralegals contribute significantly to legal work, particularly as legal services are becoming more commodified. But compared to lawyers, they lack professional status and opportunities for career development.

Initiatives exist to promote career diversity and increase access to the legal profession, such as the Equivalent Means Scheme. But these alternative routes still lack legitimacy and are often considered second-tier. Stefanie is also researching the sustainability of these alternative career structures.

Innovative research methods

Stefanie's approach uses a comparative study of multiple law firms. This involves interviews with lawyers, paralegals and employees in managerial roles.

Her research also makes use of innovative methods such as participant drawings to capture the emotive experiences of career mobility.

Careers in management consulting

Project team: Dr Katharina Chudzikowski, Dr Stefanie Gustafsson and Dr Svenja Tams

This project examines how consultants of a large management consulting firm manage their careers.

We use a practice-oriented perspective to study 34 management consultants. We're examining how they create knowledge about organisational career practices and construe a sense of agency in these settings.

Proactive career management

In contrast to traditional assumptions about organisational employment, career discourses of the past 20 years suggest that people need to manage their careers proactively. This proactivity is required when moving between organisations, but also to advance within an organisation.

But this need for proactive career self-management does not necessarily mean that people have more freedom over their careers. Instead, they face the challenges of navigating the explicit and implicit career practices of their organisations.