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The allure of what psychologists call cognitive fluency: too simple explanations for a much more complex world

“Human beings tend to seek simple and neat explanations for a complex world.” Jochal Benkler explains in the Harvard Bus. Rev., July-Aug. 2011 at 84, that “cognitive fluency” is “the tendency to hold on to things that are simple to understand and remember.”

Cognitive fluency may be at work in law departments when general counsel latch onto discounts from hourly rates: everyone understands the idea immediately and it sounds like such a straightforward mechanism to influence the muddled, complicated, ever-changing complexity of outside counsel extravagance. “Partnering” is also cognitively facile: as in let’s hold hands together united into the dark. Another candidate could be “the big firm” since size matters and conveys longevity, quality and lots of defensible plausibility. It’s hard to think, evaluate, and choose the right firm amidst distractions, pressures, and conflicts – far simpler to avoid complexity and go big.

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