The purpose of this article is to reflect on the ongoing transformation of the Big 8/6/5/4 public accounting firms, with the intent of helping primarily doctoral students and junior faculty engaged in developing their own research programs. Drawing on a variety of theoretical research traditions that we have employed in our field research spanning over 30 years, we will briefly reconsider three “moments” through which the phenomenon of the multi-discipline (or, as termed in the sociology of professions literature, the “entrepreneurial”) professional service firm has shaped both accounting firms and accountants: Moment I, in which administrative partners implemented centrally orchestrated control systems to better direct the actions of audit team members, and the response of the latter to resist, deflect, and transform such efforts; Moment II, in which the profession attempted to rebrand itself as a professional service delivery system that could offer “higher platforms of service” to a global business community, in a legal and political context shaped by regulators, U.S. presidential and congressional politicians, the lay membership of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and such laws as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; and Moment III, in which the concept of professional entrepreneurialism became internalized within and acted upon by both individual professionals and firms, although in a manner not wholly controlled by administrative partners nor practice partners. Impressions gleaned from this reflective exercise are explored, and implications for researchers who may be contemplating field research using qualitative methods are sketched.

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