Global ends, local means: cross-national homogeneity in professional service firms

Crawford Spence, Claire Dambrin, Chris Carter, Javier Husillos, Pablo Archel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)
173 Downloads (Pure)


An expanding institutionalist literature on professional service firms (PSFs) emphasizes that these are ridden by contradictions, paradoxes and conflicting logics. More specifically, literature looking at PSFs in a global context has highlighted how these contradictions prevent firms from becoming truly global in nature. What it takes to make partner in the Big 4 is at the core of such interrogations because partners belong to global firms yet are promoted at the national level. We undertake a cross-country comparison of partner promotion processes in Big 4 PSFs in Canada, France, Spain and the UK. Synthesizing existing institutionalist work with Bourdieusian theory, our results suggest that PSFs in different countries resemble each other very closely in terms of the requirements demanded of their partners. Although heterogeneity can be observed in the way in which different forms of capital are converted into each other, we show there is an overall homogeneity in that economic capital hurdles are the most significant, if not the sole, set of criteria upon which considerations of partnership admissions are based.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-788
Number of pages24
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
Early online date16 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • comparative human resource management
  • top management
  • personnel selection
  • performance appraisal and feedback
  • organizational culture
  • job/employee attitudes
  • cross-cultural human resource management


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