KEEPING A BUTTERFLY AND AN ELEPHANT IN A HOUSE OF CARDS: THE ELEMENTS OF EXCEPTIONAL SUCCESS*

KEEPING A BUTTERFLY AND AN ELEPHANT IN A HOUSE OF CARDS: THE ELEMENTS OF EXCEPTIONAL SUCCESS* W H E R E T A N D O O R I CAN L E A D My wife and I were eating dinner with Donna and Joe. Joe asked what I had been doing lately. I explained that I had been studying knowledge-intensive firms - ones that earn revenues from specialized expertise. I cited the Rand Corporation and Arthur D. Little as examples, and briefly described their work. Joe, a partner in a prominent Park Avenue law firm, asked if I had studied any law firms. With insufficient tact and excessive confidence, I told him I had not. I understood law firms to make most of their revenues by routinely generating standardized documents such as contracts, stock offerings, or wills. Because legal word-processing systems are widely available, because all lawyers have adequate basic knowledge, and because law firms employ lawyers with diverse skills, clients can readily substitute one law firm for another. My interest lay, I said, in firms that are renowned for their unusual expertise. Joe replied quietly that he thought I was misjudging law firms in general, and more importantly, that some law firms do have reputations for unusual expertise. I asked him to http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Management Studies Wiley

KEEPING A BUTTERFLY AND AN ELEPHANT IN A HOUSE OF CARDS: THE ELEMENTS OF EXCEPTIONAL SUCCESS*

Journal of Management Studies, Volume 30 (6) – Nov 1, 1993

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 1993 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
0022-2380
eISSN
1467-6486
DOI
10.1111/j.1467-6486.1993.tb00471.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

W H E R E T A N D O O R I CAN L E A D My wife and I were eating dinner with Donna and Joe. Joe asked what I had been doing lately. I explained that I had been studying knowledge-intensive firms - ones that earn revenues from specialized expertise. I cited the Rand Corporation and Arthur D. Little as examples, and briefly described their work. Joe, a partner in a prominent Park Avenue law firm, asked if I had studied any law firms. With insufficient tact and excessive confidence, I told him I had not. I understood law firms to make most of their revenues by routinely generating standardized documents such as contracts, stock offerings, or wills. Because legal word-processing systems are widely available, because all lawyers have adequate basic knowledge, and because law firms employ lawyers with diverse skills, clients can readily substitute one law firm for another. My interest lay, I said, in firms that are renowned for their unusual expertise. Joe replied quietly that he thought I was misjudging law firms in general, and more importantly, that some law firms do have reputations for unusual expertise. I asked him to

Journal

Journal of Management StudiesWiley

Published: Nov 1, 1993

References

  • A little theorizing about the big law firm: Galanter, Palay, and the economics of growth
    Sander, Sander; Williams, Williams
  • Learning by knowledge‐intensive firms
    Starbuck, Starbuck

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