Management Department




Date of this Version



Academy of Management Review 2011, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 180-187.


Copyright of the Academy of Management. Used by permission.


In a recent Academy of Management Review article, Professor Andrew von Nordenflycht (2010) focused on defining professional service firms (PSFs). In the article von Nordenflycht argues that past research leaves the term professional service firms either undefined or at best provides only examples, such as law firms, accounting firms, "etc." In addition, he argues that while most scholars agree that law firms and accounting firms fit the "definition" of PSFs, there is "little consensus on what the 'etc.' refers to. Does it include ad agencies? Physician practices? Software firms? Why or why not?" (2010: 155). The author's contributions include (1) identifying three distinctive characteristics associated with PSFs (i.e., knowledge intensity, low capital intensity, and a professionalized workforce), (2) arguing that while all PSFs share knowledge intensity, they may vary based on the degree of intensity of the other two characteristics (i.e., capital intensity and professionalized workforce), and (3) describing manage? rial challenges facing each structural form and providing solutions. In this dialogue we discuss the limitations of the proposed definition, question the managerial challenges von Nordenflycht associates with PSFs, and critique the corresponding solutions he offers.