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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.

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

  1. Senit says:

    One thing that is often over looked in this type of discussion is the ability to relate to human beings. I’m am always happy to hire a bright young lawyer. I don’t care how intelligent they may be, I still spend hundreds of hours teaching them to be a lawyer. The thing that is hard to teach is how to be a people magnet.
    I have found that my employees that have the ability to relate with others well enjoy more success then the ones that are just bright. It also brings more referrals.