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Golf outings and tickets sway general counsel, but not as much as law firms imagine

“Research suggests that decision-makers don’t realize just how easily and often their objectivity is compromised.” Blunt words from Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard, in the NY Times, April 16, 2006 at WK12, who emphasizes our penchant for uncritically accepting evidence when it pleases us (“I like firm XYZ, so I look for confirming facts; firm ABC I’m against, so I spot and remember criticisms of it.”)

Gilbert writes that “Dozens of studies have shown that when people try to overcome their judgmental biases – for example when they are given information [RWM: opera tickets or football seats or Michelin four star meals] and told not to let it influence their judgment – they simply can’t comply…”

On the other side of the credit card, “while people underestimate the influence of self-interest on their own judgments and decisions, they overestimate its influence on others.” Marketers still urge lawyers to take prospects to the SuperBowl.

The conclusion I took from this editorial may rub some people the wrong way. In-house lawyers, showered with emoluments from marketing, lose objectivity less often than the givers hope, but more often than the recipient lawyers realize.