A chance conversation with my AFA counter-part lead to a dialogue on the suitability of lawyer personalities to a successful law practice. In part, this was out an outcome of Lisa’s post on the sales skills of lawyers. In our conversation, we decided that to be truly successful these days a lawyer needs 1) Technical skills, 2) Leadership/Business skills and 3) Relationship (a.k.a. sales) skills. Without too much thinking, it’s obvious these are typically three distinct and mutually exclusive skill-sets. Finding a lawyer who has all three of these is rare at best (think Lisa’s super-model). Then our conversation turned to law schools and the types of personalities and skills they are designed to attract and build. One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from a law school dean, “We are academic institutions, not vocational schools.” Which is to say, law schools focus exclusively on technical skills. And even then, it’s more on the academic side of technical skills – and not much of hands-on, practical skills. And what’s worse, when law firms recruit from law schools, they want only the best … technicians. As we talked through this subject it became apparent this is yet another aspect of the profession that needs to change. In the past, legal technical skills were all that was needed to succeed. But now in the days of price competition and utilizing what everyone else calls a “business model,” firms need broader skill-sets from their partners. Harry S. Truman said “The ‘C’ students run the world.” The gist of that statement in our context is that C students are the ones with the relationship skills. For them school wasn’t about getting the best grade. Beyond learning, it was about enjoying the people you met. These C students are the ones that make business happen It’s their relationship skills that get and keep clients and make the business a success. Firms recruiting at law schools might want to keep this concept in mind. The Law Review students may make the best technical lawyers, but they likely won’t be the ones that will drive the success of your firm. Perhaps George W. Bush said it best. “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”

  • When I was in law school, a partner at a large Long Island law firm told me that: "A" students work for "C" students and "B" students start their own firms.

    That comment has always stuck with me and I guess there is a little more to it than I thought.

    Thanks for another great post.

  • Anonymous

    I heard that A students become law professors; B students become judges; and C students become millionaires.

  • Anonymous

    I just finished my first year, and came out with a 2.46 GPA. Thank you for this entry. I wish I could convey the sheer disappointment I feel in my graded performance, but knowing at least some people feel the way they do as expressed in this article, gives me some hope for the future. Law schools need to stop enforcing strict curves, and focus more on education. Curves only serve to inflate their ranking, in a ranking system already guided by favoritism, which creates a job market open only to those who happen to be able to write well on a timed, cumulative essay question. One question, my friends, does not test the knowledge of a individual on a single topic.

  • Anonymous

    Funny how people can lump together A (or other graded) students as equal beings with with similar opportunities, drives, limitations, etc.

    How broad and general this blog post was. Have these geeks used their minds in this post?

  • I like this post, not only because it's incredibly honest, and as a recruiter very accurate, but also because it gives me hope for my "B-C" average son.

  • As much as I hate to believe it, this is how it works.

  • Anonymous

    Given that you quote Bush, maybe Truman did not mean it in a good way.