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May 08

A book to add to the reading list

Malcolm Gladwell’s releasing a new book called Outliers later this year. It’s a book about the backgrounds of the highly successful. Ought to make for interesting reading… I know I’ll be picking up a copy when it comes out.

The promo blurb reads:

Outliers is a book about success. It starts with a very simple question: what is the difference between those who do something special with their lives and everyone else? In Outliers, we’re going to visit a genius who lives on a horse farm in Northern Missouri. We’re going to examine the bizarre histories of professional hockey and soccer players, and look into the peculiar childhood of Bill Gates, and spend time in a Chinese rice paddy, and investigate the world’s greatest law firm, and wonder about what distinguishes pilots who crash planes from those who don’t. And in examining the lives of the remarkable among us—the brilliant, the exceptional and the unusual—I want to convince you that the way we think about success is all wrong.

The reference to “world’s greatest law firm” perked my attention. My hunch is that Gladwell has written about Wachtell. WLRK is a firm which has, on a consistent basis, the highest profitability per partner – and not by a few percent over its closest competitor (typically Cravath) but by margins in the region of 50% or so. And its associates are paid absurdly well because of it (although the rumour is that they push the equivalent of 3000 billables each year – I say “equivalent” because they tend to work on an i-bank-like contingency fee basis). More interesting is that it’s a relatively young firm. In fact, three of its name partners are still working there. It’s also a small firm – only a couple hundred attorneys. Another unique aspect is that it has a partner:associate ratio of about 1:1.

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