Harvard Research Collaboration

Harvard Law School, Centre on the legal professions
Bayes Business School, City, University of London

The Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession (CLP), led by Professor David B. Wilkins, and the Bayes Business School Centre for Professional Service Firms (CPSF), led by Professor Laura Empson, are proud to announce a research collaboration aimed at strengthening knowledge about the ever-evolving dynamics of the global legal profession and related professional service organizations. As part of this collaboration, CLP and CPSF are working together to create collaborative research partnerships across a host of areas of common interest, including ongoing work on the leadership dynamics of law firms and what innovation means in the legal services market. As part of the partnership, CLP and CPSF are working to create a robust intellectual community, including site visits to meet with the various teams as well as leveraging technology to create a virtual collaboration space. CLP and CPSF are also making efforts to share and disseminate their research insights internationally. As part of the collaboration, Wilkins and Empson have been appointed senior fellows at the other’s respective centre.

“The work that Professor Empson and her colleagues at the CPSF are doing is rigorous, cutting-edge, and has direct applications for lawyers as they do their jobs in a globalizing world,” said CLP faculty director David B. Wilkins. “Having a pipeline into Professor Empson’s knowledge and the expertise of the team around her, including leading academics and practitioners, are invaluable resources as CLP continues to shine light on the most important issues facing the global legal profession.”

“Professor Wilkins and his team at CLP have a justifiably strong reputation for developing highly relevant, research-driven insights into the management of law firms” said Bayes Business School’s Empson. “This is a fantastic opportunity to combine our respective areas of expertise and to do some really important work together.”

To kick off the collaboration, Empson worked with a team at Harvard Law School on the development of a new case study, “Allen & Overy: Surviving the Banking Crisis,” examining how the U.K. law firm of Allen & Overy navigated the global banking crisis of 2008. Says Empson, “The case has two themes embedded within it: constructing ambiguity and navigating ambiguity. It shows how an extended leadership group of about 30 people can work together through a process of ‘intuitive mutual adjustment,’ which enables them to function very effectively within a profoundly ambiguous authority structure.” Empson goes on to say that, “The case encourages students to question some of their fundamental assumptions about leadership, power, and governance in partnerships by emphasizing how individuals with the interpersonal skills to understand and navigate an ambiguous authority structure can exercise considerable informal power. The case also explains how it is possible for leaders of partnerships to act when they lack the authority to do so. Students are encouraged to consider the hidden hierarchy within their firms. Are they part of it? If so, how do they mobilize it? If not, how do they join it?”

Wilkins, who has taught the case numerous times to leading lawyers from around the world, said, “The Allen & Overy case study is a fantastic mechanism for discussing one of the central challenges that law firms are facing today: How to managing through challenging economic times. The discussions its evokes are directly applicable to law firm leaders from around the world. It is deeply thought provoking and forces you to ask the tough questions.”

About the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession

Website: clp.law.harvard.edu

The Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession seeks to make a substantial contribution to the modern practice of law by increasing understanding of the structures, norms and dynamics of the global legal profession. In pursuit of accomplishing our mission, we:

  • Conduct, sponsor and publish world-class empirical RESEARCH on the profession;
  • Innovate and implement new methods and content for TEACHING law students, practicing lawyers and related professionals about the profession; and
  • Foster broader and deeper connections BRIDGING between the global universe of legal practitioners and the academy.

About the Bayes Business School Centre for Professional Service Firms

The Bayes Business School Centre for Professional Service Firms is dedicated to researching the professions, professional service firms, and the professionals who work within them. We are:

  • A place where academics make a difference. The Centre conducts rigorous research that aims to change the way that academics and professionals analyse and understand professional service firms.
  • A place where professionals come to think. The Centre provides professionals with space and stimulus to explore the leadership challenges they face.
  • A place where academics and professionals collaborate. The Centre brings academics and professionals together to challenge each other and create new ideas.


HLS Center on the Legal Profession: Bryon Fong, [email protected]

Bayes Centre for Professional Service Firms: Laura Empson, [email protected]

Media enquiries

Amy Ripley, Bayes Business School Press Office: T: +44 (0)20 7040 3134, [email protected]