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Firms Hire Nonpracticing Lawyers in Manager and Support Roles

Ron Friedmann posts on a new trend at large firms: use of nonpracticing lawyers as managers. He writes that firms now hire nonpracticing lawyers for jobs such as marketing, e-discovery, knowledge management, professional development and practice support. There are some pitfalls, of course, as Friedmann points out:

Either way, firms must exercise some caution. First, they must “be careful of what they ask for, lest they get it.” For example, some churn in CMO and CIO positions in recent years likely stems from initial excitement followed by balking when the firm learns what’s really involved. Second, they need to consider how to integrate the non-practicing lawyer and any team reporting to him/her. Thinking this through requires a realistic assessment of a firm’s culture and the strength of its caste system. And third, they need to allocate risk fairly between the firm and the new role: negotiate a graceful exit strategy for both the firm and individual if things don’t work out.

I would think that second-class treatment is the biggest impediment to finding and retaining nonlawyers in managerial roles at firms. My guess is that many lawyers at firms would look down on the nonpracticing lawyers, thinking to themselves that the person "couldn't cut it as a real lawyer." Does your firm have lawyers in nonlawyer roles, and if so, how is the firm using these people? And for lawyers currently working in a nonlawyer function, what motivated you to seek out this type of alternate career path?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 27, 2007 at 06:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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