Above the Law article: "I'm a Lawyer, You're a Non-Lawyer. What's Wrong with Saying That?"
This is a question we think and talk about often, and this article offers some perspective on the other side of the debate. Our take is below, but the substance of the article is essentially this:
- business services professionals haven't earned the title of lawyer
- lawyers have both skills and obligations that "non-lawyers lack"
- non-lawyers should not expect to be "revered" within law firms
It concludes with a recommendation to find a new industry if this term bothers you.
If the question is "what's wrong with that?" the answer is: plenty.
These statements point to a belief that those who do not practice law are "less than" those who do - less skills, less impact, less accountability. So, what appears on the surface (typically by those who have never been on the receiving end of it) to be a question of semantics is ultimately a question of value.
The author argues that those without law degrees shouldn't be called lawyers. Who would disagree with that? But that has never been the problem. This debate has zero to do with business services professionals seeking to be viewed the same as lawyers, and everything to do with having their differing skill sets recognized as worthwhile contributors to the success of their firms.
Reverence and respect are two very different things. Impact players want titles that reflect what they do, not what they aren't. That seems only appropriate.