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Business & Finance Series: Research Spotlight

Professor Laura Empson shines a new light on professional service firms

"New streams of scholarship explore the significance of professional service firms within the knowledge economy," says Professor Laura Empson, Director of the Centre for Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School.

by Kyla Jardine (Senior Communications Officer)

Professional service firms provide support to businesses of all sizes and in a wide range of sectors, such as accountancy, law and management consultancy. Over the past three decades the professional service firm sector has emerged as one of the most rapidly growing, profitable, and significant sectors of the global economy.

Professor Laura Empson, Director of the Centre for Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School is one of the leading academics behind new lines of inquiry on the activities, performance and professionals who work within the sector.

Professor Empson said, “For many years, professional service firms have remained very much in the shadows of organisational research. Management scholars have been slow to recognise the scale and significance of the sector. This is perhaps because professional service firms are typically privately owned, disclose very little financial information, and prefer to operate close to their clients and out of the public eye.”

Over the last thirty years the sector has emerged as one of the most rapidly growing, profitable and significant sectors in the global economy, with the largest professional service firms now recognised as global giants, on par with well-known public corporations.

“The revenue generated in the sector is phenomenal and on a par with other global sectors such as commercial banking,” commented Professor Empson. “In 2013 the figures stood at $2.5 trillion (USD) with an employment market of 18 million people.”

Empson’s expertise in the field was recognised when she was asked by Oxford University Press to become lead editor in The Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms published August 2015. The handbook brings together the leading scholars in the field and reflects critically on the complex array of literature published on the topic of the sector.

“These firms are theoretically distinctive and empirically significant, spanning a wide range of services and offer many insights, not only into the business world, but also into broader social arenas such as politics and public services. In studying the sector, we gain insights into the challenges facing organisations within the knowledge economy, as well as deepening our understanding of more conventional organisations.”

Read Professor Empson's latest article, 'Professional Service Firms come out of the shadows' on Cass Knowledge.

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