Global ends, local means : cross-national homogeneity in professional service firms

Spence, Crawford and Dambrin, Claire and Carter, Chris and Husillos, Javier and Archel, Pablo (2015) Global ends, local means : cross-national homogeneity in professional service firms. Human Relations, 68 (5). pp. 765-788. ISSN 0018-7267 (

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An expanding institutionalist literature on professional service firms (PSFs) emphasizes that these are ridden by contradictions, paradoxes and conflicting logics. More specifically, literature looking at PSFs in a global context has highlighted how these contradictions prevent firms from becoming truly global in nature. What it takes to make partner in the Big 4 is at the core of such interrogations because partners belong to global firms yet are promoted at the national level. We undertake a cross-country comparison of partner promotion processes in Big 4 PSFs in Canada, France, Spain and the UK. Synthesizing existing institutionalist work with Bourdieusian theory, our results suggest that PSFs in different countries resemble each other very closely in terms of the requirements demanded of their partners. Although heterogeneity can be observed in the way in which different forms of capital are converted into each other, we show there is an overall homogeneity in that economic capital hurdles are the most significant, if not the sole, set of criteria upon which considerations of partnership admissions are based.