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Even if mental agility declines with age, veterans’ intimate knowledge of the company compensates

One point made by Boris Groysberg, Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance (Princeton Univ. 2010) at 54, concerns job tenure and productivity. From his careful study of equity research analysts who were top-ranked by Institutional Investor, he confirmed what others have found: “Empirical studies have found close links between tenure and performance.”

It may be that sheer speed of thought declines as lawyers move into their 50s and older, but if they have been at a company for a long time their extensive on-the-job experience means they are likely to understand the company better, its mores, and its key managers. The firm-specificity of that knowledge pays off in greater effectiveness.

The average tenure of in-house lawyers in the United States probably being more than 10 years, it means they can bring to bear a tremendous reservoir of company knowledge. Think of it as tenure and talent in tandem (See my post of Aug. 27, 2005: 70 years in one law department; Nov. 11, 2005: years in position in-house; Nov. 28, 2005: average age of lawyers in one set of departments; Oct. 19, 2007: uses average tenure of 10 years; Nov. 28, 2007: average tenure of lawyers and years out of law school; Nov. 29, 2009: talent combined with tenure boosts productivity; March 30, 2010: beyond lawyers per billion; and Feb. 17, 2011: GC tenure does not relate to spending benchmark.).