IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

When Knowledge Is an Asset: Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms

Listed author(s):
  • James B. Rebitzer
  • Lowell J. Taylor

We study the economics of employment relationships in large law firms. Our point of departure is the “property-rights†approach that emphasizes the centrality of ownership’s legal rights to control significant nonhuman assets of the enterprise. From this perspective, law firms are an interesting object of study because the key asset in these firms is knowledge, particularly knowledge of the needs and interests of clients. We argue that two distinctive organizational features of law firms—the use of “up-or-out†promotion contests and the practice of having winners become residual claimants in the firm—emerge naturally in this setting.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/510761
Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Labor Economics.

Volume (Year): 25 (2007)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 201-229

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:v:25:y:2007:p:201-229
DOI: 10.1086/510761
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JOLE/

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as
in new window


  1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
  2. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-795, December.
  3. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
  4. Jonathan Levin & Steven Tadelis, 2005. "Profit Sharing and the Role of Professional Partnerships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 131-171.
  5. Bruce Fallick & Charles A. Fleischman & James B. Rebitzer, 2006. "Job-Hopping in Silicon Valley: Some Evidence Concerning the Microfoundations of a High-Technology Cluster," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 472-481, August.
  6. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 2001. "The Firm as a Dedicated Hierarchy: A Theory of the Origins and Growth of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 805-851.
  7. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
  8. Joseph Farrell & Suzanne Scotchmer, 1988. "Partnerships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(2), pages 279-297.
  9. Stole, Lars A & Zwiebel, Jeffrey, 1996. "Organizational Design and Technology Choice under Intrafirm Bargaining," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 195-222, March.
  10. Canice Prendergast, 1993. "The Role of Promotion in Inducing Specific Human Capital Acquisition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 523-534.
  11. Waldman, Michael, 1990. "Up-or-Out Contracts: A Signaling Perspective," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 230-250, April.
  12. Brendan O'Flaherty & Aloysius Siow, 1992. "On the Job Screening, up or out Rules, and Firm Growth," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 25(2), pages 346-368, May.
  13. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas N., 2005. "Hierarchical sorting and learning costs: Theory and evidence from the law," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 349-369, October.
  14. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas N, 2007. "Managerial Leverage Is Limited by the Extent of the Market: Hierarchies, Specialization, and the Utilization of Lawyers' Human Capital," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 1-43, February.
  15. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1994. "The Firm as an Incentive System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 972-991, September.
  16. Kahn, Charles & Huberman, Gur, 1988. "Two-sided Uncertainty and "Up-or-Out" Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(4), pages 423-444, October.
  17. Carmichael, H Lorne, 1988. "Incentives in Academics: Why Is There Tenure?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 453-472, June.
  18. Kevin Lang & Peter-John Gordon, 1995. "Partnerships as Insurance Devices: Theory and Evidence," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(4), pages 614-629, Winter.
  19. Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1995. "Efficiency Wages and Employment Rents: The Employer-Size Wage Effect in the Job Market for Lawyers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(4), pages 678-708, October.
  20. Christopher Ferrall, 1991. "Promotion & Incentives in Partnerships: Theory & Evidence," Working Papers 808, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  21. Malcomson, James M, 1984. "Work Incentives, Hierarchy, and Internal Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 486-507, June.
  22. Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-348, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:v:25:y:2007:p:201-229. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Journals Division)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.