BAM Conference In The Cloud Keynote - Prof Laura Empson

We are delighted to announce that Laura Empson, Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School, City University London, UK will be delivering a keynote session at the British Academy of Management virtual Conference In The Cloud in September 2020.

Laura Empson is Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms and Director of the Centre for Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School, University of London.  She is also Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School.  Her research, supported by a series of ESRC awards, focuses on the professions, professionals and professional service firms.  She has explored themes such as leadership, governance, mergers, professionalisation of management, identity, and organizational change.  In addition to her extensive range of publications in leading international journals she has published three books with Oxford University Press, most recently Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas (2017) and was lead editor of the Oxford Handbook for Professional Service Firms (2015).  She has also developed a series of autoethnographic studies about crossing the research-practice divide. 

She has a separate strand of publications in journals such as Harvard Business Review, translating her academic research to a practitioner audience.  She acts as an advisor to many of the world’s leading professional service firms in areas such as accounting, law, actuarial science, and management consulting.  From 2013 to 2016 she served on the Board of KPMG LLP as an Independent Non-executive and Chair of the Public Interest Committee.  

She was previously Associate Professor at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School and has a PhD and an MBA from London Business School and a BSc(Econ) from University College, London. 

Keynote title: Collegiality in the Time of Corona

The current crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of our academic institutions.  Yet, at an individual level, the crisis has also revealed our unexpected depth of commitment to colleagues and students in the notoriously individualistic and self-absorbed profession of academia.  While our profession is under threat, our professionalism has never been more apparent.  As we start to take stock of the havoc wrought by Corona, are we experiencing the death throes of a sector already weakened by years of underfunding and grandiose expectations?  Or are academics experiencing a reawakening and reaffirmation of what it really means to be a professional?

To explore these questions I draw upon my research into leadership, governance, and identity in the professions and professional partnerships.  I examine the multiple manifestations of collegiality: collegiality as equality of authority, collegiality as mutual support, and collegiality as social control.  I examine how the leaders of professional partnerships must manage these three manifestations of collegiality which coexist in dynamic tension within their organizations, and which are continuously evolving, weakening, and strengthening in response to changing economic circumstances and societal norms.  I argue that university leaders and their fellow academics should look to professional partnerships for lessons in how professionals and professional organizations can adapt and survive the current crisis.