Sedimentation and Transformation in Organizational Change: The Case of Canadian Law Firms
Organization Studies, July 1996, Vol. 17, pp. 623-647
Posted: 26 May 2013 Last revised: 27 Jun 2013
Date Written: July 1, 1995
This paper identifies two archetypes in large Canadian law firms to show how ideas of professionalism and partnership are changing, due in part to shifts in discourses in the wider institutional context. These changes in discourse themselves alter the interpretation of organizational structures and systems. This theme is explored through the concept of tracks and sedimentation. We explore the emergence of an organizational archetype that appears not to be secure, and which results in sedimented structures with competitive commitments. The geological metaphor of sedimentation allows us to consider a dialectical rather than a linear view of change. Case studies of two law firms show how one archetype is layered on the other, rather than representing a distinct transformation where one archetype sweeps away the residues of the other.
Keywords: organizational change, professional service firms, sedimentation, transformation, law firms, managed professional businesses
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