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MGT305-Organizational Behavior

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Case Study

Cheetham and Wynne, a fast-growing law firm started in 1976 by Owen Cheetham and Jack Wynne, had been located in a downtown Auckland office for nearly 40 years. The company specialised in commercial law, with many of their clients being banking, insurance and finance organisations. For a long time, all of the lawyers had been white males, most of whom had gone to the same school as Owen and Jack. The administrative and paralegal staff were mostly younger women. Late on Friday afternoons the lawyers often went to the O’Connell Club, a members-only club, styled on those found in London, where they could eat, drink and play snooker and darts. Originally, it was an all-male domain, but when the club had been accused of discrimination it had opened its doors to female members. Only a few women had joined in the past decade, though, and there were also only a few nonwhite members. Many deals were done by the Cheetham and Wynne law firm in this club or on the golf course.

Two new partners had joined the firm four years ago, Mark Cheetham and Cathy Wynne. Like their fathers, they had been classmates at university. Cathy was the first female lawyer to be hired. Since the two had started at the practice, the number of clients—many of which were internet, mobile and software companies—had grown significantly. These firms were aggressively sought by the two young lawyers, who specialised in the protection of patents and other intellectual property. It had taken considerable persuasion from the two younger partners for the firm to hire Anand Moodley, who concentrated on environmental issues, and Pauline Herata, who had strong connections with Mãori businesses and community organisations. The two senior partners had initially been reluctant to employ lawyers, who, as Jack had put it, were ‘not like us’, or to go into fields that were different from the safe commercial arena they knew well. However, they had softened their stance somewhat when the firm experienced strong growth in the newer areas

1. a. Identify the reasons for employees resisting the change to an open-plan office approach.

b. Explain what the partners might have done better to have minimised the resistance.

2. a. Analyse the barriers to communication (‘noise’) that appear to exist in the law firm.

b. Discuss how they could be overcome.

3. a. Discuss the sources of power the partners and others appear to have and the impact this may have on other employees.

b. What influence tactics have been used by some of the partners and employees and how effective might they have been?
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