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Eat what you kill. In the legal world, it refers to the kind of law firm where an attorney’s compensation is tied directly to the client billings that attorney brings in. The website Wordspy.com dispassionately defines it as “the business philosophy that a person who accomplishes something should get the full financial benefit that results from that accomplishment.” The phrase was reportedly first used in the legal world in 1987, in an article ironically entitled Collegiality Revisited.

One factor that may become very important is security. Clearly, the fast-growing institution that features the "eat what you kill" ethic is not designed for, nor will it be expected to provide, long-term security. The question is whether the young and immortal will factor long-term security considerations into their short-term planning. American Lawyer, September 1987

The phrase originated in the hunting world, where it urged hunters to refrain from killing anything they didn’t plan on eating. It was adopted in its metaphorical sense by testosterone-fueled lawyers, male and female alike, who used it to mean that a partner’s earnings should be based on how much business he brings to the firm.

It’s a phrase macho enough to make any swaggering partner swoon. But of course, you don’t actually kill anything when you’re working for a law firm. Maybe if you’re a district attorney and you’re prosecuting a death penalty case, but those guys are working for the State, and I’ve found that they don’t brag about such things anyway.

As for myself, the only thing I ever killed during my legal career was my soul. If it’s true that lawyers eat what they kill, I guess that would make me some kind of autocannibal. A soul autocannibal, maybe.

The Soul Auto Cannibals. Good name for a group.

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