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Who Is Saul Bellow and Why Should Lawyers Care?

Saul Bellow is dead, but he still matters if you want to get a law job.

A prominent intellectual property firm recently screened applicants based on their essays about Bellow, a 20th Century author who won numerous prizes for his work. The firm posted a job for a lawyer and "a literary artisan," well-versed in the classics, with an essay assignment: Whether Saul Bellow deserved his 1976 Nobel Prize for Literature.

"If you are unfamiliar with Saul Bellow, this position may not be right for you," the ad said. Somebody got the job already, but here's why it matters to you:

IQ and EQ

Alan Fisch, founding partner of Fisch Sigler, said they wanted a lawyer who fit the firm's culture. It was not just about a cover letter and a resume; it was about mental and emotional intelligence.

"The goal remains for our team to evaluate a broad picture of the candidate and for the candidate to experience a genuine taste of the team's ethos and winning ways," he said.

To get the job, it helped to know that Fisch was a former partner with Kaye Scholer who won a $62 million jury verdict against Microsoft. Persuasive writing was also key for the position.

But knowing something about Bellow could set the winning candidate apart. It's that "je ne sais quoi" that sometimes makes the difference.

Nobel Prize

Bellow, a Canadian-American, won the Nobel Prize for Literature after writing many award-winning essays and books between the 1950s and 1980s. He died in 2005.

His breakthrough work came in 1953 after he was inspired to change his writing direction as he watched water flowing through a gutter in Paris. He had been writing about two men arguing in a hospital.

He stopped writing that story and immediately started The Adventures of Augie March, which critics said included the best writing of his life. It poured out of him.

"All I had to do was to be there with buckets to catch it," he said.

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