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

I have been conducting academic research into professional organizations for over twenty-five years. My initial move into academia was inspired by my frustration with the poor leadership I witnessed when working as an investment banker and a strategy consultant. I wanted to make sense of my own experiences and to understand better why ‘smart' people do stupid things.

I remain fascinated by studying professional organizations because they flout many conventional ‘rules’ of management and leadership, thriving on complexity, ambiguity, and paradox. Over the years I have maintained my commitment to using my academic research insights to help professional organizations, and the people who work within them, address some of their most challenging problems.

This is why I have written two practitioner-focused books, made my first forays into broadcasting, and why I continue to work with professional organizations as an advisor, speaker, and non-executive director.

I post on Linkedin regularly so please follow me there if you would like to keep up to date.


Laura Empson is Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms and Director of the Centre for Professional Services Firms at Cass Business School, London, and Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School.

She has published numerous articles in leading international academic journals and edited the Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms (2015). Her two practitioner-focused books, Managing the Modern Law Firm (Oxford University Press, 2007) and Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas (Oxford University Press, 2017), have sold all around the globe. Laura is also a regular contributor to the international media, including the Financial Times, BBC, and Harvard Business Review, providing expert commentary and background briefings to journalists on subjects including professional service firms, leadership, and insecure overachievers.

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. 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 is currently acting as Expert Advisor to the UK Government's Competition and Markets Authority and their Review of the Audit Market.


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.