Is the Legal “Gene Pool” Too Contaminated?

I was watching repeats of a humorous gameshow called QI on the UK TV channel “Dave” the other day and Stephen Fry, the compare, asked the panelists a question:

“What did the Dik-Dik do that the Dodo didn’t?”

There were the usual humorous replies and verbal dancing round the handbags until the true answer came out; which was that the Dodo lived on an Island and had no predators, so when man arrived it had no fear of man and was therefore wiped out by hunters. Whereas the Dik-Dik, a small antelope the size of a small dog, lived in Africa and had predators all around it.

In fact everything from large birds to jackals and reptiles wanted to eat it and it was afraid of almost everything and so it learned to develop strategies for living and (unlike the Dodo) was still with us.

So the Dik-Dik hid from man and the Dodo didn’t…and the one with no predators ended up extinct.

The chat continued and it was mentioned that the fish in large tropical fish tanks are kept fit and healthy by the inclusion of a predator in the tank. The idea being that the large majority of fish in the tank have no desire to be eaten, so they keep a suitable distance from the predator fish; when the predator goes left, they go right and so on and the exercise does them all good.

The subject then moved on to Darwin and evolution and the fact that Darwin never said “Survival of the fittest” what he said was “It’s not the fittest or the most intelligent that survive but those most adaptable to change.”

So far so good, but what does this have to do with lawyers and the law?

Well, the next day I was reading (flicking through) a couple of law journals and towards the back they always have a page devoted to staff movements; you know the sort of thing, “Bloggs and Co are delighted to announce their new employment law partner Mr Smith, who has joined them from Briggs and Co” There were about 10 of these announcements in one journal and 14 in the other one, all saying the same thing.

What struck me was that the lawyers of one medium sized firm left and moved to the other medium sized firm; usually in the same city.

In the 24 examples that I read, 90% of them had simply traded employment in one medium firm for another.

I looked back at some old journals and saw the same thing with the same statistics.

What that tells me is that the thinking, processes and culture of one medium sized firm almost identically resembles the other; the only difference is the personalities of the partners.

On that very subject, I saw an article about lawyer personalities and what makes an ideal lawyer, but then I remembered something else that I’d read about a sense of self-importance; which is a subconscious element in most lawyers.

It went a bit like this: to become a lawyer, one must go through life as an achiever, otherwise you’d never make the cut.

As a student at school you must get decent grades. Your self-importance “thermometer” rises. This sets you apart from the others and you earn a place at Law college. To graduate you will have passed a number of exams and seen a number of your peers drop out for various reasons. Another rise of the mercury.

You are accepted for a Diploma or LPC place. Up another notch.

Some peers drop out and you pass. Up again.

You win a traineeship with a law firm. Click.

You finish the traineeship and become a qualified lawyer. Click.

After a few years of pay rises and titles, you are selected as partner material. Getting hotter.

After a few years as partner, dispensing advice to clients who come to you and pay you an hourly rate that is a weeks wage or more to many, your sense of self-importance is right up there.

Now tie that in with the Dodo, Darwin theory, the movement of partners between firms.

Lawyers have had no predators in the past. They are intelligent but not adaptable. They move from one firm to another that is almost exactly the same as the firm they just left and they have a sense of self-importance that means they do not and will not listen to advice.

In a Zoo, the gene pool needs some outside help otherwise the animals in-breed and that causes physical and mental deformities.

The changes that the UK Legal Service Act and Alternative Business Structure brings might just be the DNA that the legal sector needs to survive by giving it a much-needed injection of “business DNA” so that lawyers can start dealing with their customers in a more acceptable manner.