Smart lawyers aren’t by virtue of that creative lawyers, or even likely to be

“We know that creative genius is not the same thing as intelligence.” The quote comes from a book review in the London Rev. of Books, March 3, 2011 at 11. Like idiot savants know a huge amount about a small area of knowledge, creative types may be hopeless intellectually outside their domain. Consider, next, the reverse: how likely is a very smart person creative?

“In fact, beyond a certain minimum IQ threshold – about one standard deviation above average, or an IQ of 115 – there is no correlation at all between intelligence and creativity.” The valedictorian may well be pedestrian.

Highly-regarded law firms recruit highly-intelligent law school graduates: law review editors, Order of the Coif, rarified clerkships, real brain boxes. That may tend to be true, but those with Stanford-Binet firepower don’t necessarily produce new solutions to difficult legal problems. In turn, when law departments cherry-pick the best of the brightest, there is no guarantee that those agile minds will spring open new legal strategies.

I find the claimed lack of correlation between intelligence and creativity hard to accept. The explanation may be that we measure intelligence by timed paper and pencil tests, a trivial and unrelated insight into whatever incandescence composes a ninth symphony, carves a holy mother and child, imagines a beam of light racing along, or conjures up an ambivalent Danish prince. Mere quickness of mind creativity is not. To recall swiftly, to spot a pattern with alacrity, to finely distinguish precedents, to curate facts, all are skills of a “smart” lawyer but none are the ineffable magic of innovation. We do not yet fathom why the light bulb sometimes flashes on, but sheer mental wattage isn’t enough.

One Response to Smart lawyers aren’t by virtue of that creative lawyers, or even likely to be

We welcome comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *