Sedimentation and Transformation in Organizational Change: The Case of Canadian Law Firms

Organization Studies, July 1996, Vol. 17, pp. 623-647

University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-133

Posted: 26 May 2013 Last revised: 27 Jun 2013

See all articles by David J. Cooper

David J. Cooper

University of Alberta - Department of Accounting, Operations & Information Systems

C. R. Hinings

Independent

Royston Greenwood

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization

John L. Brown

University of Alberta

Date Written: July 1, 1995

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Cooper, David J. and Hinings, C. R. and Greenwood, Royston and Brown, John L., Sedimentation and Transformation in Organizational Change: The Case of Canadian Law Firms (July 1, 1995). Organization Studies, July 1996, Vol. 17, pp. 623-647 , University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-133, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2269879

David J. Cooper (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Accounting, Operations & Information Systems ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

C. R. Hinings

Independent

Royston Greenwood

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

John L. Brown

University of Alberta ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R3
Canada

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