Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pedigree vs quality revisited - dogs and lawyer resumes have a lot in common

I recently watched a dog show and found myself intrigued by the pomp and circumstance of the entire process. Dogs combed and brushed and primped within an inch of their lives are trotted out by very serious owners adjusting stance, tail, ears, holding snacks at just the right distance and angle to optimize the dog's profile. A judge feels up the dog from head to toe before dog and owner take a trot around the ring.

The dog looks majestic and beautiful in a very controlled trot. The owner looks a tad silly running in a suit (forgive me, all dog lovers; I have a point to make). This is when I feel very sorry for the dog. When did he last get to run with reckless abandon, chase squirrels, get muddy, be a dog? Did he ever get to? Did he ever get to exercise his dog skills? Can't you see his owner yelling "get out of that mud, Fido, we'll never get that mud out of your fur!"

Lawyers resumes are managed just like show dogs. Go to the most prestigious school (get brushed and primped). Join every possible organization to make yourself look busy and important (have your stance, tails, ears properly adjusted). Have law firms hold high enough "standards" as to who they will interview (holding dog treats almost out of reach). Don't work as a contract or temporary lawyer (don't play in the mud) because, says Gary Sedlik of the Lateral Attorney Report ( article "To Temp or Not to Temp" (

The Stigma: The truth is that some firms simply will not consider hiring a lawyer if her resume reflects one or more stints as a contract lawyer. Whether this is fair or not is beside the point. Some firms and lawyers have this bias.

When did putting in an honest day's work create a stigma that would impair your ability to obtain another job? When did working on a temporary or freelance basis disqualify legal professionals for permanent positions?

What does it say about a law firm that ranks "not working" as a superior job qualification to "working"?

Primped show dog or qualified legal professional? Which do you want to be?


Gabe said...

A firm that would not hire someone based on the fact that they worked one or two contract jobs have many other "knock out" criteria as well, i.e. schools, grades, background, connections, etc.

I have been meaning to write about this "stigma" that affects contract attorneys for over a week now, but have been consumed unfortunately with my actual work. Thanks for motivating to focus on this again.

The truth of the matter is, in today's economy, firms aren't hiring attorneys period. I think because of the glut of attorneys that will be on the market due to our financial crisis, you will quickly see that "stigma" diminish in value.

omari amir said...

I agree with Gabe in the sense that the simple reason that firms can reject lawyers on such specious grounds is because supply greatly outstrips demand. The other, of course, is the notion that law firms are selling something other than merely knowledge of the law -- they are selling "influence" of the type implied by a certain pedigree, irrespective of actual talent and ability.

I would argue further that the problem with the law firm market is the same problem we're having in the overall economy. There is such an absence of truth in dealing that valuations of sufficient quality to make long term investment decisions are woefuglly lacking. No one really believes what anyone says anymore, even if their resume reads Harvard.

Anonymous said...

This is a topic I was amazed to see given a recent experience I had in a job interview.

I am not a lawyer. I am a Subject Matter Expert in electronic discovery, litigation support, legal holds and software applications, collection, search, review, production and ALL related software applications for each stage in the litigation lifecycle. I'm very well known, published, etc. You get it.

In the interview I was asked this: "how would we deal with your lack of pedigree!"

I was stunned and so taken off guard I just said "it's a non issue."

This topic is something I'd like to read more about.