Sexing the Law Firms
The Am Law Daily recently had the following lede: “Can Bill Henderson, the one-man idea factory and Indiana law professor, do for the study of law firms what Indiana’s most famous academic, Alfred Kinsey, did for the study of sex?”
Per Am Law, Henderson and others have started Lawyer Metrics which, according to their website, will “design and build evidence-based systems to select, develop and retain world-class lawyers and counselors.”
No beef there. The part I didn’t understand was Am Law’s analogy to Kinsey. At first I thought it was a typo: They must have meant McKinsey, the management consulting gurus who brought you Enron. But no. That’s really a reference to the man who, according to Wiki,
is generally regarded as the father of sexology, the systematic, scientific study of human sexuality. He initially became interested in the different forms of sexual practices around 1933, after discussing the topic extensively with a colleague, Robert Kroc. It is likely that Kinsey’s study of the variations in mating practices among gall wasps led him to wonder how widely varied sexual practices among humans were.
Now that’s evidence-based for you.
This leads to two questions. First, is Henderson’s goal viable? His work is great, so I have no doubt that if it can be done, he can do it. But if, as my friend Claire Hill points out, career development in large law firms is as much about social skills and judgment as technical acumen, what is the formula going to look like? According to Am Law, Henderson is starting with expressed preferences of lawyers at large firms. But is that really what matters? Is it, instead, about dollars, wins, losses, closings or something else entirely? Is the dependent variable simply “partner,” against which we regress everything we can think of (e.g., LSAT, GPA, law school, etc)? Doubtless, Henderson & Co. have thought of these questions, so we will have to await any findings they publish.
Second, is the analogy to Kinsey so inapt? Given the f*cking many recent (and not-so-recent) grads have experienced in Big Law, maybe not.
Mating gall wasps courtesy of Wikimedia.