Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Henderson Forms Company to Apply Moneyball Principles to Law Firms

Henderson From the American Lawyer:

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? ...

Henderson and a small group of like-minded analyst-practitioners, including Anthony Kearns, an Australian risk-management specialist, and Caren Ulrich Stacy, an Am Law 100 professional development veteran, have formed a company. Called Lawyer Metrics, one of its missions is to examine--and bring some analytic rigor to--the big-firm hiring, training, promotion, and retention processes. ...

Working with a small group of Am Law 200 firms, Henderson and his researchers are starting to take apart the urban legends that fuel the lawyer recruiting and promotion process. Part of this is a Moneyball approach (named after Michael Lewis’s book on the statistical basis for the Oakland A's draft choices). 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. The results are tentative and firm-specific; it's premature to announce findings. But the suggestions are that the conventional wisdom may be awry; brains and determination matter, but not all glowing personal attributes have equal positive impact. Henderson is daring to ask which matter more--a few years in the military, a few years in the job force, or a few years as a law review editor--in predicting law firm success? For many hiring committees, the answers may seem self-evident. Alfred Kinsey’s America was equally convinced that all red-blooded American men were heterosexual and faithful to their wives, who, everyone knew, weren’t much interested in sex anyway.

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