Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Promotion to Partner in Large Law Firms Operating in the United Kingdom: Tournament Theory and the Monitoring of the Implied Promise

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posted on 2021-11-12, 12:12 authored by Shufflebotham, David Howell

This research is a study of the promotion to partner process in large law firms in the United Kingdom (UK). It is concerned with the application of tournament theory to such firms. In particular it is an examination of the ability of associate lawyers to monitor the implied promise that, in prescribed circumstances, they will have the opportunity of becoming a partner at their firms. In order to identify whether or not the rules of tournament theory on promotion to partnership hold true when set against the experiences of lawyers in large law firms operating in the UK, I established a theoretical framework based on a review of the relevant literature. I then tested that theoretical framework with data from two sources: case study interviews with partners at a large UK law firm; and a questionnaire distributed to a wider sample group of partners across a number of large UK law firms. The research found strong evidence to support the application of the core elements of tournament theory to large law firms in the UK. The research also found, however, that the implied promise envisaged by tournament theory was not the promise monitored by the individuals who took part in the research project.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Commerce and Administration

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Management School


Lafferty, George