My Fortune is the Work of Others: A Response to Prof. John C. Coffee, Jr. Regarding Lockstep Law Firm Partnerships and Tournament Theory
880 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2020 Last revised: 8 Jan 2022
Date Written: February 6, 2020
Recently, Prof. Coffee published a provocative opinion piece in slide form through the Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog entitled "The Rise of the Mega-Law Firm: Some Reckless Reflections and Prickly Predictions" concerning the recent changes to the large law firm landscape. He makes several interesting points throughout his publication; however, the author respectfully disagrees with some of his contentions and also requests further clarification on certain points.
To the extent the author understands Prof. Coffee’s choice of words, the author disagrees with Prof. Coffee that a lockstep compensation model might be appropriate at a law firm where all partners believe they are “equally gifted,” as the author contends a belief in equal giftedness should bear little relevance on a law firm’s decision to maintain a lockstep compensation model. Also, the author contends both lockstep law firm partnerships and nonlockstep law firm partnerships strongly benefit from partners who are “wholly committed to the firm.” Additionally, the author strongly criticizes the tournament theory model, which has become closely linked with Cravath and has been applied to numerous law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, financial institutions, and other organizations throughout the globe, on the grounds it is fundamentally flawed. Of note, to the author’s knowledge, this article constitutes the first significant effort to challenge the tournament theory model and its application based on arguments grounded in Vedic/Hindu and Biblical/Christian core values. The response also discusses the up or out system employed by many major law firms, law firm performance reviews, and the legal academy.
Furthermore, the author foreshadows that, in a future work, the author will elaborate on and further refine the concept of the “Rao Effect” for ease of reference and to further conversations and developments relating to the intersection of morality, spirituality, faith, law, economics, and social policy. The Rao Effect, introduced within this work, relates to the impact of fixed morality (many might characterize this as spirituality-based or God-based morality) on a given market or markets, which, although real and occurring, is highly abstract in that it cannot be measured quantitatively. Under the general umbrella of the Rao Effect, the author introduces the concept of a “Rao Dilemma.” A Rao Dilemma, subject to further elaboration and refinement, relates to a situation in which individuals acting rationally in this world engage in behaviors and decisions that, in the near or long term, lead to inferior overall real world outcomes than if at least certain individuals possessed a level of fixed morality, and such outcomes can only be avoided by at least certain individuals possessing a level of fixed morality. The existence of the Rao Effect and Rao Dilemmas render Adam Smith’s influential economic theories and later theories based thereon, such as developments in game theory, incomplete and incorrect, as they do not take into account fixed morality and its impact on markets, economies, and societies. It’s worth noting that the Rao Effect and the existence of Rao Dilemmas, while not by themselves definitively proving the existence of God, provide support for the existence of God and, further, God’s active role in this world. Restated, the Rao Effect and the existence of Rao Dilemmas very much align with the existence of a caring God who created and maintains the universe. Given the expansive scope and impact of the Rao Effect, including its ability to serve as a springboard for further inquiry, discussion, and policy recommendations, it might very well provide the basis for one of the stronger arguments in favor of God’s existence to come along in recent years, as well as providing a continental shift in the framework for understanding fundamental principles of economics, among other things. Though the author does not purport to be a theologian, based on his understanding, studies, and experience, certain belief systems within the Vedānta Hindu tradition take the greatest advantage of the Rao Effect while producing the least negative externalities, as compared to any other major faith tradition to which the author has been exposed. Logically, this supports the argument advanced by many commentators that India should unambiguously embrace, align with, and
sincerely strive to adhere to Vedic/Hindu core values. This is also consistent with, and provides some credence and support for, the claim advanced by many Hindus that Lord Krishna is the purna avatāra, or complete incarnation of God. Similarly, certain belief systems within the Protestant Christian faith tradition take, as a relative matter, high advantage of the Rao Effect, as compared to other major faith traditions to which the author has been exposed. This is consistent with, and provides some credence and support for, the claim advanced by many Christians (and some Hindus) that Lord Jesus is an avatāra, or incarnation of God. Also, the minor but increasingly popular Kabbalah Jewish tradition, which bears certain similarities to the Advaita Vedānta Hindu tradition, takes, as a relative matter, high advantage of the Rao Effect, as compared to other major faith traditions to which the author has been exposed, thereby providing evidence for the significant level of truth and real-world value of the Kabbalah Jewish tradition. To be clear and for the avoidance of doubt, through this work, the author does not endorse violence or any other such actions based on individuals’ faith traditions and spiritual journeys. Also, the primary intention of this work is not to convince the reader of the merits of any faith tradition or the existence of any God or God-consciousness. However, the author hopes this work assists in strengthening Vedānta Hindu spirituality and values within Hindu society, spreading Vedānta Hinduism to receptive and interested individuals, and providing some basic information on Vedānta Hinduism to members of other religious groups, such as Jews and Christians, given Hinduism is likely the least understood, and most misunderstood, of the world’s major religions. Vedānta Hinduism might be the most appealing religious tradition to numerous individuals throughout the globe who seek spirituality, meaning, colorful traditions, ancient rituals, intellectual flexibility, engaging parables, and profound philosophy, yet find other religious traditions, such as Islam and Christianity, limiting, haughty, or otherwise unappealing. Similarly, the author hopes this work encourages individuals to explore Transcendental Protestant Christianity, a once spiritually, philosophically, and culturally prominent movement in the United States that significantly declined in popularity and influence during the course of the twentieth century. Aspects of Transcendental Protestant Christianity might be appealing to numerous individuals who love Jesus, his teachings, and general Christian culture, yet seek a different, intellectually engaging, and spiritually vibrant way to connect with Christianity and their faith. In disclosure, the author suffered from (and, in fact, continues to be treated for) a medical condition that encouraged him to seek spiritual solace, which no doubt impacted his views on spirituality and faith in God. The reader is advised to be mindful of this experience and bias while reading the contents hereof. The foregoing aside, the author’s ultimate loyalty is to truth and Brahman, or God, and he chooses to embrace the truth, at least as he understands and sees it. To facilitate further conversations, inquiry, and developments, as well as for ease of reference, the author has coined, and introduces herein, the term “Vedanomics” to describe the modern field of study relating to intersection of Vedic values/principles and economic, legal, and social studies. Unlike certain previous lines of inquiry and analysis the author has observed, the author envisions Vedanomics utilizing Vedic values/principles as the foundation and framework to view and consider various issues, as opposed to Vedic values/principles supplementing or merely assisting in the analysis of such issues. In the same vein as Vedanomics, the author also introduces the non-exclusively Hindu terms “Spiritual Economics,” “Spiritual Capitalism,” “Transcendental Economics,” and “Transcendental Capitalism” for ease of reference and to facilitate further conversations, inquiry, and developments regarding the intersection of spirituality, theology, faith, and morality, on the one hand, and economic, legal, and social studies, on the other. Further, for the benefit of those who prefer language with less overtly religious and spiritual overtones, the author introduces the analogous terms “Patriotic Economics,” “Patriotic Capitalism,” "Enlightened Economics," "Enlightened Capitalism," “Compassionate Economics,” and “Compassionate Capitalism.” Of course, Vedanomics, Spiritual Economics, Spiritual Capitalism, Transcendental Economics, Transcendental Capitalism, Patriotic Economics, Patriotic Capitalism, Enlightened Economics, Enlightened Capitalism, Compassionate Economics, Compassionate Capitalism, the Rao Effect, and Rao Dilemmas are naturally related or, depending on the particular terms, analogous.
NOTE THIS DRAFT VERSION IS IN THE WORK IN PROGRESS/BRAINSTORMING PHASE. IT CURRENTLY INCLUDES SARCASM, HALF-TRUTHS MIXED WITH FALSEHOODS, OVERBROAD CONCLUSIONS, MISLEADING SOURCES, HUMOR, AND PROPAGANDA, WHICH WILL BE REMOVED AND CORRECTED IN A REVISED VERSION. HOWEVER, THE AUTHOR HOPES THIS UNFINISHED VERSION PROVIDES INSIGHTS AS TO THE SERIOUS DANGERS OF HALF-TRUTHS, OVERBROAD CONCLUSIONS, PROPAGANDA, AND OFFENSIVE STEREOTYPES, INCLUDING THE PROMOTION OF DEHUMANIZING BEHAVIOR, HATE, AND VIOLENCE. ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE, THE AUTHOR HOPES THIS UNFINISHED VERSION HIGHLIGHTS THE AUTHOR’S AFFECTION AND APPRECIATION FOR THE PLAYERS, A VIBRANT AND WARM THEATRE-THEMED SOCIAL CLUB LOCATED IN GRAMERCY PARK, NEW YORK CITY, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY, SPIRITUALITY, AND FELLOWSHIP GENERALLY. PERHAPS MORE AMBITIOUSLY, MAYBE SOME READERS WILL EVEN BE INSPIRED TO LEARN FURTHER ABOUT VEDANTA HINDUISM, PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY, AND/OR AMERICAN TRANSCENDENTALISM. INTRODUCED TERMS SUCH AS THE RAO EFFECT, RAO DILEMMAS, SPIRITUAL CAPITALISM, AND TRANSCENDENTAL ECONOMICS WILL REMAIN IN THE REVISED VERSION
Keywords: Law Firm, Management, Leadership, Lockstep Compensation, Tournament Theory, Vedic values, Hindu values, Biblical values, Christian values, John C .Coffee, Jr., bankruptcy, reorganization, restructuring
JEL Classification: K00, K19, K22, G33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation