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In chapter 5, which Gladwell has titled "The Three Lessons of Joe Flom", he examines the unlikely success of a group of New York City lawyers. The seeming disadvantages this group suffered included being Jewish at a point in time when Jews faced heavy discrimination, being the poor children of garment workers, and growing up during the Depression. However, Gladwell explains, in the end these were not disadvantages at all.
As the members of this group were trying to break into the field of law, "white-shoe" firms were only interested in hiring clean-cut, "Nordic" individuals who went to the right schools and had the right social backgrounds. This forced Jewish lawyers to open their own firms, where they often had to take cases cast off by the white-shoe firms. These included hostile corporate takeover deals, which the Jewish lawyers became very good at. When the aversion to these kinds of lawsuits faded and they began to prove lucrative, the Jewish lawyers were in an envious position.
Growing up during the Depression factored into the group's success as well. Basically, the birth rate dropped dramatically during this period, and the children born had the advantage of the same resources as children born in the previous years but far less competition for them. This made it easier for them to find work and get into good schools.
Finally, as children of garment workers, these children saw hard work and sacrifice modeled on a daily basis. Essentially, they developed a strong work ethic by observing the strong work ethics of their parents. When this work ethic was combined with the availability of educational and work opportunities, this group found that they were able to claw their way right to the top of their field.
Gladwell claims he can use this information to determine the background of the "perfect" lawyer, and does just this at the chapter's conclusion.
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