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For Lawyers, the World Is Us and Them

For Ron Friedmann at Strategic Legal Technology, it is the law firm caste system. For Jordon Furlong at Law21, it is a missed recruitment opportunity. What both are talking about is the propensity of lawyers to view the world as "us and them" -- as lawyers and non-lawyers. Explains Furlong: "Lawyers are notorious for their habit of treating employees without law degrees as separate and lesser entities within the firm structure, less worthy of respect and collegiality." Hear hear, says Friedmann, adding:

As both evidence and cause of this problem, consider the pervasive and perhaps perverse use of the term "non-lawyer." If you visit HP, IBM, Dell, or Sun Microsystems, do you hear "non-engineer" or "non-scientist"? If you visit Glaxo, Merck, Novartis, or Amgen, do you hear "non-researcher" or "non-doctor"? We can even quantify this to a degree. Google searches for for "non lawyer" yield 183,000 hits and "non doctor" 23,500 hits (for the plurals, the hits are 219,000 and 14,000 respectively).

For Furlong, the point in pointing this out is that one firm's caste system is another firm's opportunity:

Valuable members of your rivals' firms are disaffected and alienated, seeking workplaces where they're fully integrated into the firm's business and culture. Build or reinforce those elements in your own operation, developing a deserved reputation for proper treatment and engagement of non-lawyer professional staff. When that reputation starts circulating in your legal community's support staff grapevine (and there is one, believe me), you'll have a major lead over your competitors in the pursuit of these underrated and underappreciated employees.

Friedmann agrees, but wonders nonetheless how lawyers came to this world view in the first place. "Framing people by what they are not is worse than unhelpful," he writes. That is a point on which I would hope all lawyers -- even the non-blawgers -- would agree.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 18, 2008 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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