Five arguments against legal departments using non-lawyers for significant tasks, with counter-arguments

Here are five points that traditionalists might advance against reliance on employees without law degrees for important undertakings. They come from a recent presentation.

“Attorneys are ultimately responsible” – but this argument, carried to an extreme, would have only lawyers doing everything, and perhaps only one per matter.

“Attorneys are always better qualified” – but this is not true, since no one can be a polymath expert in everything, nor do lawyers want to wade through the more routine parts of even significant tasks (proofreading, cite checking?). For significant amounts of law department work, a veteran paralegal will do excellently (See my post of March 18, 2005: asks if there are practical limits to what paralegals can do.).

“Attorneys have to know the information anyway” – but that has nothing to do with efforts to find the information and distill it so that it is learnable efficiently.

“Clients prefer dealing with attorneys” – but actually they prefer dealing with the most knowledgeable person. A dumb degree-holder loses to a sharp, informed layperson.

“If non-lawyers can do it, why do we need attorneys?” – but that attitude irresponsibly drains corporate coffers; cost considerations alone justify delegation by lawyers. Job preservation is a poor argument against using qualified non-lawyers for important work.

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