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Title: Career progression in small- and medium-sized law firms : experiences of a diverse workforce
Author: Kele, Juliet Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 2684
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis investigates both career progression structures and diversity management practices in small- and medium-sized law firms: those with fewer than 25 partners (Law Society, 2012). Previous studies have explored career advancement, barriers to entry into law and managing diversity, yet, they have primarily focused on larger companies. As smaller law firms form the majority of the legal sector, a more diverse profession would more effectively meet the needs of its clientele. Moreover, lawyers, described as highly-skilled knowledge workers (Druker, 2003), may be more attracted to career advancement; given their professional orientation. The research questions ask: 1. How is career progression structured in small- and medium-sized law firms? 2. What are perceived as the factors (personal and organisational characteristics) influencing career progression in small- and medium-sized law firms? 3. What diversity management practices exist in these law firms and how effective are they? To answer these questions, data collection comprises 44 semi-structured interviews within case study firms. Findings suggest that while the smaller law firms followed a structural career progression route, both genders acknowledge encountering career obstacles. These tend to be gendered and racialised, as well as shaped by socio-economic status. Using an intersectional multi-level analysis model, three distinct themes emerge as relevant to the experience of working in the small- and medium-sized law firms; covering the importance of educational attainment, networks, and law specialism chosen. While all the organisations recognise increasing workplace diversity as significant and beneficial, diversity management and equal opportunities practices were primarily utilised during the recruitment process. The contributions of this thesis are two-fold. Firstly, offering a new conceptualisation of diversity and diversity management within the smaller-firm context: ‘aesthetic diversity’. Secondly, examining career enablers and obstacles using intersectionality theory to better understand how its usage as a framework can generate beneficial smaller firm HR policies.
Supervisor: Cassell, Catherine ; Tomlinson, Jennifer Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available