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'Managing across borders': knowledge management and expatriation in professional service legal firms


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  • Jonathan V. Beaverstock


Within professional service firms (PSFs), capital accumulation is dependent upon the embodied knowledge, skills, practice and trustworthiness of fee-earning staff. In legal PSFs, clients purchase idiosyncratic knowledge from individuals which are supplied through close-interaction, co-location and proximity. Legal firms expatriate staff to export English Common Law to their international offices, but simultaneously, employ the services of 'local' staff to practice local jurisdiction law. But, as this analysis of knowledge management and expatriation within London-headquartered firms proceeds, the findings indicate that expatriation is not homogenous for every region of the globe. In east Asia, expatriation followed a 'Multinational' typology, characterized by one-way knowledge diffusion from London and a demarcation of labour where expatriates manage offices, departments and teams. In contrast, expatriation in Europe and North America reflected a 'Transnational' typology, where knowledge was developed and diffused in a network of relationships. Here, expatriates worked with locally qualified partners and lawyers, and expatriates of other nationalities, in an environment where locals, expatriates of other nationalities and British qualified staff manage, held partnerships and lead teams. In such circumstances, expatriation was a process creating 'transnational communities' within the firm. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of Economic Geography.

Volume (Year): 4 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 157-179

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Handle: RePEc:oup:jecgeo:v:4:y:2004:i:2:p:157-179

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Cited by:
  1. Bruce S. Tether & Qian Cher Li & Andrea Mina, 2012. "Knowledge-bases, places, spatial configurations and the performance of knowledge-intensive professional service firms," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(5), pages 969-1001, September.


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