When I was in high school, I kept a small piece of paper with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson tacked to the wall in my bedroom. (Yes, I was a super nerd.) It was Emerson’s definition of success. He wrote that achievement takes many forms, “from a redeemed social condition” to the more mundane: devotedly tending a garden patch or raising a child.

It’s that concept of success—that it’s not one-size-fits-all—that underlies our selection of our annual Lifetime Achievers. In other issues of The American Lawyer we pick the “Dealmakers of the Year” or the “Litigator of the Month.” But with our Lifetime Achievers we’re looking for something that’s even harder to pinpoint. As we cull through various names, we scout for lawyers with exemplary business bona fides—successfully trying cases, say, or leading novel deals.

But that’s not enough. We are also looking for people who fit a more Emersonian view of success. Take 2011 Lifetime Achiever Stanley Levy. The Manatt, Phelps & Phillips counsel helped found three public interest law firms (and is an ordained rabbi to boot). Or Richard Beattie. The Simpson Thacher & Bartlett chairman is widely known for being one of the fathers of the leveraged buyout and for his work advising KKR & Co. L.P. and many corporate boards. But he is also the founder of New Visions for Public Schools, the largest public education reform effort in the country. Levy, Beattie, and the other six 2011 Lifetime Achiever recipients are extraordinary lawyers, certainly, but for them, that’s just the beginning of what makes them successful.
—Robin Sparkman, editor-in-chief

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