Quality & Quantity 34: 153–175, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Spreading and Shifting Costs of Lateral Control
among Peers: A Structural Analysis at the
and DAVID KRACKHARDT
University of Lille 1 and CLERSE-IFRESI, France;
Carnegie Mellon University, U.S.A.
Abstract. This paper uses three-way and sociometric data to reconstitute individual conceptions
of peer-driven intervention for the protection of common resources in a collegial organization, a
Northeastern corporate law ﬁrm. Variations in partners’ individual conceptions are explained in terms
of management of costs of lateral control. Costs of control are mainly expressed as costs to members
in terms of social capital. Management of such costs includes spreading or concentrating them among
partners, shifting them to others or bearing them oneself, and using similarities among others to
smooth the control process among peers. Leverage styles are identiﬁed. They tend to combine various
ways of spreading and shifting such costs, and characterize three levels of seniority. Seniority appears
to be a key variable for a theory of unobtrusive protection of common resources among peers.
Key words: social control, leverage, organizations, law partnership, network analysis, three-way
Collective actors maintain institutional arrangements and protect common re-
sources through both formal and informal control mechanisms (Black, 1984;
Coleman, 1990; Ellickson, 1991; Hechter, 1984, 1987; Heckathorn, 1990; Lazega,
1995; Lindenberg, 1993; Morrill, 1995; Ostrom, 1990; Reynaud, 1989; Taylor,
1987; Wittek, 1999). Among the informal mechanisms, indirect control using
leverage has been shown to be of particular interest in collegial organizations
(Lazega, 1995, 2000) which have to rely to a great extent on the self-regulating
capacity of its professional members (Waters, 1989). In effect, peers are reluctant
to use direct command and formal regulation (Freidson, 1975), but also to bear the
costs of exercising control. Previous work (Lazega, 1992b, 1995; Lazega and Vari,
1992; Lazega and Lebeaux, 1995) has shown that, as a consequence, such organi-
zations can develop, at the collective level, a “lateral control regime”, i.e., a control
mechanism which helps peers avoid open confrontations, and shifts the costs of
control to a set of informally specialized members. The latter are more likely
Author for correspondence: University of Lille 1, CLERSE-IFRESI, 2, rue des Canonniers,
59800 Lille, France, phone: (011 331) 40 25 10 03; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org