Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Would You Hire Barack Obama?

This article is from over a year ago.  Very prescient.

Would You Hire Barack Obama?
For over a decade I worked as a headhunter specialized in placing lawyers. I've often wondered what I would have made of Barack Obama's résumé if it had come across my desk.

I'd start off being impressed--very impressed. In the legal industry, almost regardless of a candidate's seniority, the first thing anyone looks at is the candidate's education. Even 17 years after graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama's work there remains his greatest strength. Obama graduated magna cum laude, near the top of the class. This is a real achievement. Being editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review is an even greater one.

It's when Obama leaves law school in 1991 that his résumé starts raising questions. He didn't begin a full-time job until 1993. Between 1991 and 1993, Obama divided his time between lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School, writing a book, and returning to his pre-law school activity, community organizing.

In 1993, Obama went to work for the small Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Galland. He could have gotten a job with any major law firm in America. His belated selection of a boutique law firm that offered lower pay but a better lifestyle than the top firms is striking. A lot of people in the legal industry, rightly or wrongly, would infer a certain softness from Obama's chosen path.

Between 1993 and 1996, Obama was a full-time associate at Davis, Miner. On the side, he continued lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School,
and his autobiographical Dreams From My Father came out in 1995. (Initial sales of the book were poor, though they would take off years later, once Obama became a national figure.) By 1996, Obama was also running for the Illinois legislature. After winning that race, he became a part-timer at Davis, Miner and a member of the Illinois senate, also a part-time job, while continuing to lecture at Chicago.

What is striking about Obama's résumé circa 2004, as he began his U.S. Senate campaign, then, is that 13 years out of law school, he had yet to commit himself to one line of work. More important, potential employers would wonder about a gulf between the ability Obama showed at Harvard and his actual accomplishments. Obama never made it beyond lecturer at Chicago, where he wrote no scholarly articles. He wrote one book, then stopped writing for over a decade. And he was less than a force in the Illinois legislature. After roughly three years practicing law, he had turned away from that career.

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