How many Jewish attorneys can dance on the head of a pin?
By Paul Haist
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In the Dec. 1 Jewish Review we published an article that named Jews who were among the top 50 Oregon lawyers, irrespective of gender and the top 25 women lawyers, as determined by Super Lawyers magazine and its parent.
Super Lawyers magazine, which appears to publish one such magazine each year for each of the 50 states, asserts in its pages that the “super lawyers” are selected “by their peers and through the independent research of Law & Politics” magazine.
The Jewish Review no sooner published the names of attorneys we knew to be Jewish who appeared in the top 50 list irrespective of gender and the top 25 women than we began receiving e-mails from Jewish attorneys and the proud parents of Jewish attorneys whose names appeared in the Super Lawyers list.
In one case, we accidentally had omitted the name of an attorney in the two top categories. That was Sally Landauer, whom we should have known is Jewish. We are sorry for that oversight.
As for the many other Jewish attorneys on the entire Super Lawyers list, their names did not appear at the top of the list and for that reason we did not include them.
There were hundreds of attorneys named on that list. The Jewish Review does not have the resources to call each one of them and ask them if they are Jewish—not to dwell also on the fact that many find it an odd question.
Then there are so many attorneys on the list. I’m sure they are all dedicated and gifted, but when there are so many, well, where to put all those names?
On closer analysis, I wondered what was the point of naming several hundred attorneys super lawyers, whatever that means. What percentage of all the attorneys in Oregon does this group comprise?
The Oregon Bar Association reports that in November there were 13,390 active attorneys in Oregon and another 3,588 inactive attorneys.
Therefore, to be numbered among the top few hundred by almost any standard must be significant.
However, I then wondered why we should report this list at all. If we report the names of Jews at the top of one profession, why not also among physicians, professors, accountants, engineers, plumbers, paving machine operators and, yes, even lowly editors and reporters?
Then I wondered why Super Lawyers magazine and its parent Law & Politics would create one category for all attorneys and another category just for women. What should one infer from that? I hesitate to go there, but in my opinion the choice to make such a distinction may not reflect favorably on Super Lawyers magazine or Law & Politics.
I also wondered what the purpose might be of naming “super lawyers,” when in the pages of the magazine itself the reader is cautioned not to pick an attorney on the basis of their inclusion in the list. For someone seeking an attorney, why else look at such a list? One could be inclined to think the magazine’s disclaimer disingenuous.
In the end, it was apparent that Super Lawyers magazine is merely a promotional vehicle for the legal profession, which is a perfectly respectable thing to be and notwithstanding that being selected by one’s peers as an outstanding attorney is truly a distinction in a distinguished profession.
We had to draw a line somewhere. Exept for the accidental omission of Sally Landaurer, we drew that line at exactly the same place that Super Lawyers magazine drew the line.
When the Jewish Review covers a speech, for example, it does not report everything the speaker says, only the highlights. Likewise with stories such as the Super Lawyers list.
If someone wants to know everything, they should go to hear the speaker or read the magazine.
The Jewish Review is like the head of a pin. I do not know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But I believe that there probably are more attorneys than there are angels, even just in Oregon—and a lot of them are Jewish, I mean the attorneys, but maybe the angels too. In either case, they can’t all fit on the head of a pin.
All of this has led to a policy decision here at the Jewish Review. Brace yourself. In the future, we will not report on these lists—not for Jewish attorneys and not for anything else.
When a member of our Jewish community is named by competent authority as the best or one of the best in his or her field, we will proudly announce that newsworthy fact—as we routinely do—among the brief announcements in the back of the paper. In special circumstances it might be a whole story.
Otherwise, it belongs in the trade journals.