Sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale . . . .
It started last October, when Blawgletter — as Your Editor of the Susman Godfrey L.L.P. newsletter, Barnett’s Notes on Commercial Litigation — challenged readers to cite any pre-September 1986 publication of the phrase "eat what you kill" in the sense of tying a lawyer’s compensation to his performance. The dare cited an American Lawyer article that quoted Blawgletter using that very phrase.
The WSJ’s Law Blog responded by asking "Did Barry Barnett Invent the Phrase ‘Eat What You Kill?’" Barnett’s Notes rejoined with an update that identified a partner’s citation to Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which the Constable of France says that the dauphin "will eat all [the English soldiers] he kills" at the impending Battle of Agincourt.
But, just this week, we hear from Maxwell S. Kennerly, of The Beasley Firm in Philadelphia, about a 1982 use of the phrase, apparently in the exact sense that Blawgletter intended three years later. Mr. Kennerly backs up his revelation with a "tinyurl" link to a Google blurb on the International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law. The blurb includes this: "Other firms adopted an ‘eat what you kill’ system without profit sharing to reward individual productivity . . . ."