New career models in UK professional service firms:from up-or-out to up-and-going-nowhere?


In this paper, we empirically examine how professional service firms are adapting their promotion and career models to new market and institutional pressures, without losing the benefits of the traditional up-or-out tournament. Based on an in-depth qualitative study of 10 large UK based law firms we find that most of these firms do not have a formal up-or-out policy but that the up-or-out rule operates in practice. We also find that most firms have introduced alternative roles and a novel career policy that offers a holistic learning and development deal to associates without any expectation that unsuccessful candidates for promotion to partner should quit the firm. While this policy and the new roles formally contradict the principle of up-or-out by creating permanent non-partner positions, in practice they coexist. We conclude that the motivational power of the up-or-out tournament remains intact, notwithstanding the changes to the internal labour market structure of these professional service firms.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Economics, Finance & Entrepreneurship
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
Additional Information: This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Malhotra, N., Morris, T., & Smets, M. (2010). New career models in UK professional service firms: from up-or-out to up-and-going-nowhere? International journal of human resource management, 21(9), 1396-1413. International journal of human resource management © 2010 Taylor & Francis, available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords: careers,tournament theory,professional services,law,Management of Technology and Innovation,Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management,Strategy and Management
Publication ISSN: 1466-4399
Full Text Link: http://www.tand ... 192.2010.488436
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2010
Authors: Malhotra, Namrata
Morris, Tim
Smets, Michael



Version: Accepted Version

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