Article | Journal of Organizational Behavior | November 2008

Chartering New Territory: Diversification, Legitimacy and Practice Area Creation in Professional Service Firms

by Heidi Gardner, N. Anand and Timothy Morris

Abstract

Diversification into innovative domains through new practice area creation is a critical imperative for professional services firms. Using theories of organizational territoriality and corporate charters, we conceptualize professional firms as federations of distinct practice areas and argue that the chartering of a new practice is an inherently political act. New practice area founders need to engage in appropriate legitimacy-mobilizing efforts in order to sustain diversification efforts. Our analysis of 46 cases of new practice area creation attempts in consulting and law firms shows that the mix of legitimacy required for new practice areas created through radical diversification is very different from that required for incremental diversification efforts. Our findings have important implications for studying how innovation is structurally accomplished in professional firms.

Keywords: Diversification; Lawfulness; Code Law; Management Practices and Processes; Service Operations; Innovation and Invention; Management Analysis, Tools, and Techniques;

Citation:

Gardner, Heidi, N. Anand, and Timothy Morris. "Chartering New Territory: Diversification, Legitimacy and Practice Area Creation in Professional Service Firms." Special Issue on Professional Service Firms: Where Organization Theory and Organizational Behavior Might Meet, edited by Roy Suddaby, Royston Greenwood, and Celeste Wilderom Journal of Organizational Behavior 29, no. 8 (November 2008).