Editor’s Note: I received a note from a reader that wanted to post something that they felt would be a good fit for the discussions we have on this blog. In their own words:
As a long-time fan of 3 Geeks, I was compelled to add to the useful pool of content published here. I do this anonymously, based on the topic I address.
There are many of us on the “Admin-Side” of the law firm that see things that make us simply shake our heads. It was refreshing to talk with someone that wanted to point a few things out that really bothered them, not about how attorneys practice law, but rather on the business of running a large law firm and all of the professionals employed at the firm hired in the persuit of maintaining that business. We’re more than happy to post it here, and share with everyone, all while allowing the administrator to keep their day job. – GL
After working in the legal industry for many, many years, I wanted to add my voice to those lamenting the treatment of us so-called ‘non-lawyers.’ Mr. Furlong has previously posted on this topic, but my inside experience at a firm may add another dimension to the dialog.
My basic premise is that lawyers do not value those outside their profession. They deem anyone not a lawyer a ‘non-lawyer’ as a clear distinction between them and everyone else. They hold this opinion to the point that a person’s credibility and ability are first determine by whether they
a) have a law degree, and
b) they use this degree in practice.
The base opinion seems to be that if you as a person were truly capable, you would have gone to law school landed a job at a reputable firm. Absent that achievement, your abilities must be below that of lawyers.
As an example, too many marketing professionals at firms are treated as glorified secretaries. They may have deep experience and truly valuable marketing skills and experience. However, most of what they do is dictated to them by the lawyers in a firm. Mind you, these are lawyers with no training or background in marketing. They make marketing decisions based on what they want to hear, not on real market information about what a customer would want to hear.
In my role as a firm administrator, I endure constant complaints from lawyers about trivial issues. The issues may be real (printers out of ink, conference rooms without the right color of notepads, parking spaces not allocated according to seniority, and the like), yet the treatment of my staff and me can be horrendous. I have never witnessed similar treatment to another lawyer in the firm. So why is it OK to treat ‘non-lawyers’ this way?
My assumption is that this comes from a position of arrogance. If one deems themselves as more capable than everyone else, why would they show them respect and consideration?
Although this arrogance can be manifest in other ways. Lawyers seem to pride themselves on their ability to tear-down others’ opinions. When a new concept is presented to them, instead of trying to understand the value of it, they focus on the details of the proposal looking for signs of weakness. As an example, in a client proposal they are more likely to attack the grammar than consider the strategy of the proposed approach. Bad grammar to them is an indication of poor thinking and therefore an indicator that the suggested strategy must be wrong. Looking for ways to disprove every suggestion leads to every suggestion being attacked and rejected. All it takes is two or three lawyers to be involved, and any idea can be torn to shreds. So this combination of arrogance and the tendency to attack instead of understand makes lawyers poor business people.
Many friends ask me why I have worked in this environment so long. There are benefits. Lawyers are smart and challenging people to work for. They keep you on your “A-Game.” However, I sense that this arrogance is catching up with them. It is my opinion that lawyers need to understand and embrace new ways of running their firms. 3 Geeks writes about this need all of the time. So this arrogance and unwillingness to embrace new ways and to recognize the value of other professionals may well be their un-doing. I for one am beginning to question how long things can continue like this and how long I want to stay a part of the whole law firm world.
But who knows. The day may soon come when I will actually be recognized and treated as a true professional. I suppose at this point it is a matter of my patience and how soon this might actually happen.