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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan V. Beaverstock, 2004. "'Managing across borders': knowledge management and expatriation in professional service legal firms," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 157-179, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jecgeo:v:4:y:2004:i:2:p:157-179

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    Cited by:

    1. James R. Faulconbridge, 2008. "Managing the Transnational Law Firm: A Relational Analysis of Professional Systems, Embedded Actors, and Time—Space-Sensitive Governance," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 84(2), pages 185-210, April.
    2. Michael C. Ewers & Edward J. Malecki, 2010. "Leapfrogging Into The Knowledge Economy: Assessing The Economic Development Strategies Of The Arab Gulf States," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 101(5), pages 494-508, December.
    3. Peiker Wolfdietrich & Pflanz Kai & Kujath Hans Joachim & Kulke Elmar, 2012. "The heterogeneity of internationalisation in knowledge intensive business services," Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, De Gruyter, vol. 56(1-2), pages 209-225, October.
    4. Kai Pflanz, 2013. "Seeking Opportunities: International Market Selection by European Engineering Consultancies," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 104(5), pages 556-570, December.
    5. Parnreiter Christof, 2009. "Global-City-Formation, Immobilienwirtschaft und Transnationalisierung," Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, De Gruyter, vol. 53(1-2), pages 138-155, October.
    6. Christof Parnreiter, 2014. "Network or Hierarchical Relations? A Plea for Redirecting Attention to the Control Functions of Global Cities," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 105(4), pages 398-411, September.
    7. Sajjad Jasimuddin & Jun Li & Nicholas Perdikis, 2015. "Linkage between geographic space and knowledge transfer by multinational enterprises: a structural equation approach," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 54(3), pages 769-795, May.
    8. Axel Stein, 2014. "The Significance of Distance in Innovation Biographies—The Case of Law Firms," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 430-449, September.
    9. 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.
    10. James Faulconbridge & Sarah Hall, 2011. "Business Knowledges Within and Between the World City," Chapters,in: International Handbook of Globalization and World Cities, chapter 20 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    11. repec:spr:manint:v:52:y:2012:i:3:d:10.1007_s11575-011-0097-9 is not listed on IDEAS

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