Friday, October 17, 2008



I read an article this morning in the American Bar Association newsletter that claimed: "Class Rank and Grade Point Average are not the best indicators of success at a large law firm." The article went on to describe a "success test" formulated by a "major law firm" that aimed to predict how "productive" new lawyers would be. In sum, the test predicted "success" based upon the subject's ability to "be a team player." Intelligence and skill did not correlate. In fact, the test's advocates asserted that a background in "collegiate athletics" predicted more law firm success than "foreign language ability."

Should this come as a suprise? It does not surprise me. I have always known that law firms do not care about intelligence or intellectual power. They simply want "team players" who are willing to work limitless hours advancing their partners' interests. In fact, analytical thinking and innate intelligence would disserve that goal. Law firms are quintessentially counter-individual institutions. They only value individuals to the extent that they instrumentally serve the firm's economic mission. But there is an irony in this, because law--in theory--concerns matters of profound intellectual concern. In order to think cogently about the law, you have to dig deeply into social values and closely dissect language. Foreign language skill actually aids that undertaking. Yet law firms want precisely the opposite. They want minimal analysis and maximal loyalty. And they certainly don't want their associates thinkly deeply about the law; that would waste "billable time." To be concise, legal theory is about principle, while legal practice is about money. These are inconsistent ideas and that is why law practice repels me.

It saddens me to see my cynical musings confirmed in actual articles. But I take gleeful pleasure in pointing out the absurdities in them. Today, I posted the following response to the article about "team players" in law firms:

At Drinkwell & Tippler, LLC (Ranked #14 AmLaw Per-Partner-Profit), we hire only the best law graduates. But results matter. That is why we do not put a premium on intelligence. We have a winning team; we speak English, not French, Spanish, German or Chinese. Success does not mean smarts. Success means clutch hitting. And success means unlimited client service. Delivered every day. Winners go Drinkwell. We don’t talk about legal abstractions. We get results. We win--guaranteed. At Drinkwell, we expect our associates to follow our credo for success: “Real-life experience. Real-life results.” (Those with foreign language skills are not encouraged to apply. Quarterbacks are strongly encouraged to apply).


Anonymous said...

Drinkwell and Tippler! (you've always had a gift for the names

Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Yes, the names always mean something, even if it is just pure fun.