About Professor Laura Empson

Academic | Author | Speaker   Advisor

Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School, London.

Director of the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms

Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School's Center on the Legal Profession

Professional organizations fascinate me. They rank among the most successful and influential organizations in the global economy, filled with highly intelligent and highly motivated individuals. Yet they flout many conventional ‘rules’ of management and leadership, thriving on complexity, ambiguity, and paradox.

That is why I have spent the last 25 years researching them. In the process I have observed the complex, messy and emotional realities that lie beneath their smooth professional surface, and have come to understand how leaders can successfully navigate their hidden politics and power dynamics.

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Professor Empson has dedicated more than two decades to researching professionals and professional service firms. Her current research focuses on leadership dynamics in professional service firms and has been funded by a major grant from the Economic and Social Research Council of Great Britain. Her research also focuses on issues such as governance and the partnership 'ethos', mergers and acquisitions, the professionalisation of management, organizational culture and identity change, knowledge management, diversity, and overwork.

At Cass Business School, as well as being Director of the Centre for Professional Service Firms, she teaches the Cass MBA elective 'Succeeding in Professional and Financial Services' and the core MBA module on 'Organizational Behaviour'.

She has published numerous articles in leading international academic journals and is author and/or editor of three books for Oxford University Press. Her most recent book, Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas, was published in October 2017. She is lead editor of the Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms (2015). Her 2007 book, Managing the Modern Law Firm was described by The Times as marking a 'seminal moment in the development of management theory in this sector'; and was translated into Chinese to mark the tenth anniversary of its publication.

She is Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School, and a Member of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, and the Journal of Professions and Organizations. She is also a Member of the ESRC's Peer Review College.

In 2013 she was honoured by the Financial Times for her research and teaching on professional service firms. From 2013 to 2016 she served on the Board of KPMG LLP as an Independent Non-executive, first as a member and then as Chair of the Public Interest Committee.

She was previously Associate Professor at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School and remains a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. Before becoming an academic, Laura worked as an investment banker and strategy consultant.

She acts as an advisor to many of the world’s leading professional service firms in areas such as accounting, law, investment banking, actuarial and management consulting. Through her advisory work she translates her scholarly research into actionable insights into a range of issues that challenge leaders in professional service firms.

What does it mean to be a professional?

Should professional service firms ditch their grandiose purpose statements and reconnect with a more profound commitment to what it means to be a professional?


Myths of Management

Management writer Stefan Stern interviewed me for his recent 2017 book "Myths of Management: What People Get Wrong About Being The Boss".


Crossing the research–practice divide

I discuss how academics can make a difference and what are the rules of engagement with professionals.