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“The Apprentice,” the “reality” television show featuring Donald Trump thinning the herd of young munchkins competing to be hired for a management slot, is diverting and fun — but one thing it is not is “reality.” For one thing, where the heck are all the lawyers? The Trump empire is up to its bad haircut in gambling and real estate and sports entertainment, among other things. The “reality” is that Trump can’t even roll out of bed in the morning without asking a big law firm with four or five Protestant names strung out across the front door whether it’s OK for him to yawn. But his young munchkin teams go about their appointed competitive tasks as if they’re operating in Afghanistan under the protection of a warlord. Remember when they had to operate those pedicab businesses for a day? Where were the 18 regulatory lawyers fighting for certificates-of-need? Where was the one-eyed little contract-law type deciding whether the vehicles were commercial and if workers’ comp kicked in if one of the munchkins fell down a manhole? And what did the media lawyers have to say about Team Versacorp’s advertising on the back of the cabs? Did the company have any liability associated with the truthfulness of the advertising? And the competing team sold pre-paid ride cards, creating a long-term liability that will end up in court so far in the future that, mercifully, Trump will be bald by then. No lawyers to advise them. And what about the casino-promotion competition, where the munchkin teams had to be in violation of at least 467 different New Jersey state laws and regulations on how and what you can do and say to entice people to blow their kids’ college fund on the latest game of chance? Where were the lawyers? It’s not just the munchkins who appeared to operate without benefit of legal counsel. Poor Trump was whacking potential employees from a frightening Rainbow Coalition of candidates — a minefield of races, religions, gender and creed. Where was the legal team to guide him through the delights of disparate impact and the importance of diversity? Beyond the law stuff, the munchkins are not being tested in a real-world corporate environment. To be thrust together in teams, to be encouraged to play nice with your apprentice neighbors, doesn’t begin to reflect the reality of large business organizations. What the munchkins will learn, if they don’t already know it, is that the Legal Department (“no comment”) despises the Public Relations Department (“blab, blab, blab”); and that the R&D geeks think the marketing pros are unimaginative boobs who don’t know genius when they see it; and that the internal auditors think that the sales staff plays too much golf and drinks too much beer; and everyone agrees that the Human Resources Department exists only to protect the company from its employees. Of course, the real charm of “The Apprentice” is the implicit understanding that picking the “best” munchkin is a bit of a crap shoot, depending in the end on whatever pathologies break out at a particular moment from Trump’s complex little head. Experts have danced the dance of the social sciences for decades, attempting to predict what it is about people that contributes to their success or failure in business — or in life. Tall men and pretty women tend to do well, although some caution women against being “too pretty.” A study several years ago from a marketing professor at Georgia State University asked 1,300 millionaires what it took to be, well, disgustingly rich (beyond the obvious Trump example — a rich daddy). The millionaires tended to favor personal skills (honesty, discipline, hard work, a supportive spouse) and downplayed the importance of such stuff as attending a snobby college or having a high IQ. Academic studies of students (Trump munchkins-to-be) going back to the 1970s found that traits such as perseverance, punctuality, dependability and tact were almost universally rewarded not only by teachers, but later in life by supervisors in the workplace as well. In a blow to poets and newspaper columnists, “creative” and “independent” got you nowhere, either in school or in the marketplace. Assuming that the winning Trump “apprentice” can recover from the never-never land of a lawyer-free environment, it may well be that the goofy process the show employed to choose a winner has merit. As a study in the journal “Intelligence” put it in 2001: “. . . paper qualifications are unlikely to be helpful in predicting who will be best at solving your company’s problems.” Laurence D. Cohen is a contributing writer at Connecticut Law Tribune , a Recorder affiliate.

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