Accessibility Links

'Lawyers are like meerkats', says former lawyer who we are all now a bit worried about

Posted by: Laurence Simons 25/07/12

Hey, are you a lawyer? Look around you, let's figure this out. Are you wearing a suit, or at least powerful trousers? Do you find yourself shouting "OBJECTION!" a lot, be it in court or while ordering a half-chicken at Nando's? Are you a meerkat?

If you answered 'yes' to any of those questions: congratulations, you are enjoying one of many legal jobs. Wait, what. What. What?

"As endeavours go, this one is fascinating in its own right," said FT's Gillian Tett. She's talking about the endeavours of Hugh Crisp, former Freshfields in-house counsel lawyer and now, business law and management skills lecturer at the Said Business School in Oxford. And he thinks lawyers are like meerkats. He legitimately thinks lawyers are like meerkats.

To prove lawyers are like meerkats, Crisp is comparing zoological principles to business education in a new movement known as 'silo busting', or 'comparing barely relevant things in completely contrasting sectors and hoping you get a book deal out of it'. The legal industry, says Crisp, is (to borrow principles from the field of zoology) not about the survival of the fittest: no. Instead, big law firms succeed on the principles of group spirit exhibited by meerkats. And naked mole rats, also.

According to Tett, this 'silo busting' is an important corporate trend - and one that lends itself to innovation and growth. "History suggests that the most powerful forms of innovation tend to happen when silo busting does occur," she writes. And that means: channel the meerkat if you want to get ahead.

But what does it mean to be a meerkat? Well, as the structure of your firm goes, working together is clearly a defined strategy that can work wonders for both morale (not so important) and profits (pretty important). As even Magic Circle firms post underwhelming profit growth in 2012, legal businesses and those in private practice jobs should be looking to embrace 'somewhat quirky' theories as they look to flourish in a recession. So stand up on your hind legs, look mildly terrified, and run around squeaking. It's the future.