Almost everything in life can be explained by baseball.
I'm not saying this because the World Series started last week. I'm saying it because of a fascinating tale recounted in the Oct. 14 issue of The New Yorker about the demise of Dewey & Leboeuf - a juggernaut team loaded with high-priced free agents.
Sometimes you win with high-priced stars. Sometimes you spend an obscene amount of money, go down in flames, and get burdened by contracts for years to come.
And a team of farm-bred, carefully cultivated players with team chemistry can win steadily but maybe never quite win a championship.
All of that, in not exactly those words, can be found in the New Yorker piece, but, like most baseball fans, what interested me most were the statistics and the standings.
They can be seriously misleading.
Have you ever wondered how publications like American Lawyer and Forbes come up with their lists of money-makers?
This is from the article: "At one conference where the American Lawyer results were discussed, a banker estimated that more than half of the top fifty firms similarly inflated their results."
In other words, the lists are meaningless, but that doesn't stop anyone from compiling them anyway and doesn't stop people from citing them.
Case in point: the very same article states a bit later: "Of American Lawyer's top ten global firms by revenue last year, the top two were vereins."
Yes, that list is completely unreliable but we're going to rely on it anyway.
Hey, it's not easy remembering what you've written a couple of pages before. I certainly have that problem.
Now, what was I talking about?
I think it was baseball. If magazine lists aren't accurate, how can you determine standings?
Same way you do with all other sports - wins and losses.
Official scorekeepers should be hired throughout the country to monitor trials and agency proceedings to keep track of which firms win and which ones lose.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that billable hours and money are the gold standard (because you can buy gold with all that money).
But did the San Francisco Giants make more money last year than the New York Yankees?
I don't actually know the answer to that question, but you know what I mean. If you're going to have standings, wins and losses are all that count.
Besides, I really want to turn on my TV and watch a bunch of guys in suits soaking each other in champagne when they win the title. I have strange fantasies.
You're so Verein: I guess I'm a bit behind the times, but I hadn't seen the term "verein" before. It turns out that vereins - a Swiss concept infiltrating our legal world - are a tad controversial too.
First off, they throw off the unreliable standings - see, for example, a piece in the American Bar Association Journal - that notes those unreliable American Lawyer standings and quotes a guy from the No. 17 law firm complaining about vereins being listed ahead of his firm.
We wouldn't have this kind of moaning with impartial won-loss records.
Vereins, if you haven't looked them up by now, are franchise operations. Separate firms use the same name but have independent owners. Like McDonald's without the fries. (Although fries would be a good idea. They'd bring in clients.)
Much of the whining over vereins has to do with "fee-splitting" or "referral" payments made by the franchisees to the main office.
Those payments sound awfully similar to payments to partners who have nothing to do with a case.
But why quibble?
Because arguing over stats is the great American pastime.
Life is like baseball.
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