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28 November 2006

No - That Couldn't Be It

The Times reports on how blacks lag at major law firms.
A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail.
Since this leads off the article, we get to read all the amusing ways that this astonishingly obvious explanation can't possibly be true.
James E. Coleman Jr., the first black lawyer to make partner at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, a prestigious Washington law firm now known as WilmerHale, said Professor Sander was overemphasizing grades at the expense of other qualities like writing skills, temperament and the ability to analyze complex problems.
Because blacks are well known to be unusually literate, have remarkably even temperaments, and possess extraordinary analytical skills? Later on, a grimmer concern is expressed:
"The harm of the Sander article," the two professors wrote, "is that it will contribute to the stereotyping that already undermines the success of black associates in elite corporate law firms."
That's right, we can't report on the facts - they can be dangerous. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. Overall, though, the article provides a pretty fair account of the study and the controversy.

7 Comments:

Blogger dougjnn said...

With a median black IQ of ~85 and a somewhat narrower SD of about 12.5-13.5, call it 13.5 to be generous (see La Griffe du Lion), there are only a few hundred black in the entire country with IQs above 140 - which is probably about the median IQ of partners in leading elite law firms. I'm talking about 400 spread over the ages of 25-65 and distributed over all fields. The number going into corporate law firms in any one year are going to be a handful. And some years probably none. (I think many blacks realize that this just isn't the easiest place to use their talents.)

Of course there is a somewhat less demanding (potentially, in some cases) IQ role for some partners who are principally "rainmakers" with client contacts and relationships garnered in ways other than up through the trenches brilliant legal work. E.g., coming over from government agencies overseeing private industry, e.g. the FCC or Food and Drug, etc. This I'm sure counts for quite a high percentage of the few black partners there currently are at really elite law firms.

The simple fact is very few blacks have the horsepower, and other fields are clamoring for the few who do

November 29, 2006 5:06 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

Professor Sander, by focusing on grades, was able to avoid the political pitfalls of relying on more psychometric variables. People are easily able to convince themselves that grades measure something else than raw, inborn intelligence (though Coleman's not sure they even measure the ability to write and analytical ability).

As to the median IQ of 140 for elite law partners, if I were named "Stalin-for-a-Day" I would outlaw anyone with an IQ above 130 from going into law in the first place - seems like such a waste of a rare commodity.

November 29, 2006 7:46 AM  
Anonymous tom.m.yorkpa said...

Well, if black lawyers aren't competent enough to work for private law firms, I'm sure state and federal government agencies will eagerly fill the void. As anyone who has, or knows others who have, worked for state and federal gov't agencies can attest to, incompetence among minority employees is no grounds for denying them career advancement in the civil service.

The survey of U.S. corporations that assessed the skill level of college graduate hires that came out yesterday had me thinking. The corporate executives that were surveyed complained that today's young college graduates are not proficient in 20 different skill categories. Naturally, the executives weren't queried about the most common demographics into which subpar college graduate hires fall. But regardless, I bet we can expect U.S. companies to use the results of this survey to sharply reduce hiring of college graduates in the years ahead (in favor of imported Asian H1B workers maybe?). Federal and state governments, I'm sure, will step forward to provide career opportunites for this legion of underskilled young college grads, especially the minority variety no doubt.

November 29, 2006 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to the median IQ of 140 for elite law partners, if I were named "Stalin-for-a-Day" I would outlaw anyone with an IQ above 130 from going into law in the first place - seems like such a waste of a rare commodity.

Forget Stalin! An act such as this would be God-like.

December 01, 2006 9:12 AM  
Anonymous tom.m.yorkpa said...

Interesting that you make reference to Stalin in a discussion on relative intelligence, Mr. Ziel. By all accounts, Stalin himself probably had a high IQ, but a very poor EQ - emotional intelligence quotient. He never emotionally matured beyond a 5-year old.

Psychologists have been claiming for years that EQ is a better determinant of success than IQ. Unfortunately, EQ is not something that can be as easily quantified as IQ, so there is no objective way of measuring it. But supposedly, one important trait of high EQ people is their level of interpersonal skills - especially the ability to tolerate others with whom they deal on a regular basis who either annoy them or who find them annoying.

On the other hand, Psychologists have also proposed that any individual who is surrounded by other people (such as in the workplace) whose IQs are either 30 points higher, or 30 points lower than his/hers, will in all likelihood not get along with them. In other words, the greater the disparity in IQ between an individual and his peers, the greater his EQ will need to be in order to compensate for the difference in IQ.

Could it be that many members of a certain demographic group, known for their ostentatious displays of style, affected swagger, and exaggerated displays of self-confidence in an effort to conceal their actual intense fear of humiliation and failure, so irritate their co-workers, that whatever their IQ, no amount of emotional intelligence can make up for it?

December 02, 2006 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want a method of getting anyone with more than a 130 IQ out of the lawyer business, try this :->

You've heard of socialized medicine, how about socialized law? Without the lure of prestige or high salaries, the very smart will reallocate themselves quite efficiently.

December 05, 2006 12:59 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

Socialized law - problem is corporate law - not the corporate staff, but the partnerships - that's where the talent goes and there will always be money there.

December 06, 2006 9:02 PM  

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