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The psychological contract of solicitors and
the impact of promotion to partnership

GRANT, HELEN,MARGARET (2010) The psychological contract of solicitors and
the impact of promotion to partnership.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The aim of this research was to draw upon psychological contract theory to examine solicitors’ perceptions of expectations and obligations. Socialisation processes and the role of Organisational Citizenship Behaviours (OCB) were explored in relation to promotion to partnership. Context is important as law firms have a different ownership structure to other commercial organisations and employ professionals. The legal profession is changing (Empson, 2007a) due to the increasing size of firms and the changing aspirations of those entering the profession.

A mixed method approach to researching these issues was adopted. The research was conducted in two stages. Stage One comprised telephone interviews with 128 solicitors to complete a questionnaire and Stage Two comprised 34 in-depth semi-structured interviews. These interviews were analysed using QSR N6 (NUD*IST) software.

The research makes a contribution to the understanding of the psychological contract of professionals in two main areas: theoretical and practical. The utility of a promissory based approach to the psychological contract (Conway and Briner, 2005) is critically examined. The role of OCB is considered in terms of what behaviour can be seen as in-role and what as extra-role and how to identify discretionary behaviour. The results from the quantitative analysis in the study revealed a high degree of similarity in the responses. One explanation proposed is that the process of socialisation experienced by solicitors engenders assumptions about appropriate behaviour and thus expectations are defined and communicated.

The research led to the production of two explanatory diagrams of the psychological contract of solicitors. The first typology examines the influences upon the contract and the interactions of expectations and obligations. The second schema examines the impact of promotion to partnership upon work satisfaction. The implications of these for the management of law firms are discussed.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Psychological contract; solicitors; promotion to partnership; organisational citizenship behaviour; socialisation.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Economics, Finance and Business, School of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jun 2010 10:17

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