A barrister's brain is larger than a solicitor's

The Times, April 14, 2006

Male brains are bigger than female brains. The former hit the scales at around 1.25kg, while the latter weigh, on average, 100g less. This apparent scientific fact may have bolstered arguments propagated — strangely enough, solely by men — to the effect that men are cleverer than women.

A recent paper in the British Journal of Pyschology by Paul Irwing, of the University of Manchester, and Richard Lynn, of the University of Ulster, claimed that more men have very high IQs than women, while in the land of the lawsuit Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, lost his job when he conjectured that women will always come second in intellectual battles with men.

Such studies and arguments are all the more fertile when applied to the legal profession. Here, it is a truth universally acknowledged that barristers have bigger brains than solicitors. Despite this, few have been willing to consider what this might mean for society, still less to undertake rigorous research into a topic so pregnant with possibility.

One night I was out with a barrister with a pronounced hatred for solicitors. “Here, read this,” he said, with a malicious glint in his eye. He pushed a document stamped "Classified" across the table. I was right to be wary, for within this document were statistics long withheld from the public by the Law Society. They made for terrifying reading.

Studies have shown that the average barrister’s brain weighs 4kg. Yes, this is nearly four times the average, but it shows what the rest of us are up against. A top QC’s brain approaches 7kg, while even a mere junior weighs in at 3.5kg. The contrast between those of wig and pen and us mere solicitors could not be more stark, when we consider that the average weight of a solicitor’s brain is a disgraceful 12 grams. Some do not even register on the scales.

There is one solicitor whose brain apparently approaches the national average, but he was formerly an accountant. The paltry size of solicitors’ brains is a damning indictment not so much of society, but of the very essence of solicitordom. No wonder all we are good for is carrying large bundles of documents and ordering the drinks.

It got worse when my source turned to the page that reported how barristers and solicitors had fared with IQ tests. Barristers were invariably too busy being tall, dark and handsome, driving fast cars and living in large houses to take the tests, while solicitors unhesitatingly tried to do their bit. Their bit was not impressive. Few solicitors were able to draw a square, and only one knew that a circle is like a triangle, only more circular. Most asked if they could carry bundles of IQ papers back and forth, to a notional barrister, rather than sit the tests.

My source chortled with glee as he saw the dark cloud sweep over my inadequate solicitor’s brow. “What’s it like being second best all the time?” he asked. I felt sad, depressed, possibly even a little worse for wear. But then something occurred. Who had commissioned this study? And who had written it? He looked shifty when I asked him. “Facts are facts,” he said. “It’s like those scientists who’ve proved that blokes are cleverer than women. You can’t argue with them.”

Perhaps he was right. I don’t know, it is all too complicated. I’d better instruct counsel. They are sure to have the answer.