The Pie-Eating Contest:
I often hear lawyers recite an observation about making partner at a large law firm that goes something like this:
Making partner is like winning a pie-eating contest in which the prize for winning is more pie.
The point is that associates have to work long and difficult hours to make partner-- and if they make it, they are rewarded with a job in which they are expected to continue to work long and difficult hours.

  My question is, does anyone know who first came up with this line? I found one article crediting "a partner" for it, but I wondered if anyone knew any more details. If you think you know, please leave a comment.

The 3d ed. (2000)of the " Guide to the Top 50 Law Firms" (pg. 80) attributes the comment to Harvard law prof John Coates, who, according to Vault, left for Harvard only eight months after making partmer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, &Katz.
1.17.2005 2:27am
A Blogger:
That may be right, although the Vault piece (available here) doesn't make clear if Coates made up the comment or was merely reciting it. The timing is unclear: the Masssacusetts Law Weekly piece linked to in the post is from 1997, the same year Coates joined Harvard, whereas the vault thing seems to be later.
1.17.2005 9:39am
I also found a usage from 1998:

"Five of the lawyers interviewed say the early years of their partnership have unfolded precisely as they expected. Others report that the biggest surprise was how much their jobs stayed the same: "Making partner in a big firm is like winning a pie-eating contest in which first prize is a pie," quips Latham partner G. Andrew Lundberg. "You'd better like pie."

D.M. Osborne, Rude Awakening, American Lawyer, March 1998, p.71.
1.17.2005 10:00am
Luis (mail) (www):
The version I know is: "The traditional reward for a job well done is another job."
1.17.2005 11:30am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
I first heard that bromide circa 1975 when I started working at Fried Frank. It wasn't new then.
1.17.2005 11:50am
Michael E. Lopez (mail) (www):
Modern law students hear it with ice cream instead of pie.
1.17.2005 1:08pm
aslanfan (mail):
When you get to the end of the tunnel, there's another tunnel.
1.17.2005 6:12pm
Soo (mail):
There's a Korean version of this saying, as well: winning a tae kwon do competition is a lot like winning a kimchee eating contest where the prize is a bottle of kimchee ...
1.17.2005 7:31pm
I first heard this maxim from lawyer Teresa Corbin in approximately 1992 when we were both associates at Pillsbury Madison &Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop). Teresa now practices in Menlo Park, CA. Maybe she knows an earlier reference.
1.17.2005 9:54pm
Marco Parillo:
As told by Tracy Kidder in The Soul of a New Machine West [an engineer at Data General, RIP] called this paradox "pinball" back in 1978. In pinball, he reasoned, the prize for winning is getting to play again. I found this reminder here, but maybe engineers and lawyers share some characteristics.
1.19.2005 10:55am