Sexing the Law Firms

Jonathan Lipson

Herbert Kohn Professor of Law, Temple Law School (2012-Present). Previously Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, professor at Temple (2004-2010) and University of Baltimore (1999-2004) law schools. Before that, a lawyer in Boston and New York.

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1 Response

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Well put. I was struck by AmLaw’s description of their process: “Partners are asked about what values and traits they want in their lawyers. Then the researchers pour over the resumes and evaluations of associates and partners trying to identify characteristics shared by those who have become ‘franchise players’ and those who haven’t” — what exactly are they pouring? I guess that’s a trade secret.

    It sounds as if this may lead to something analogous to a financial crisis in the making, since such data-mining creates a bias in favor of “a guy like us,” which leads to homogeneity and herd thinking. At the Wall Street firm where I had my first job in the law biz more than 30 years ago, I remember one associate (later partner) who was well-regarded despite being extremely quirky. A partner explained it to me thusly: “9 out of 10 ideas he has are crazy and useless. But the 10th one is crazy and a grand slam. And he’s full of ideas.” I can’t imagine a high-productivity culture accepting, much less nurturing, lawyers like that; of course, I can’t imagine any Wall Street firms where a partner buys pastrami sandwiches for 120 people on the floor because he’s found a terrific new deli and wants to share the news anymore, either.