Law firms are looking outside the JD Box for legal talent


Rear view of young student wearing graduation gown with graduation cap in her commencement day.We wrote a couple of weeks ago about Edelson PC choosing actor, comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Bob Wiltfong. serve as its new Director of Communication & Impact. This post resonated with readers, and it became one of most-read articles of the past week.

It’s easy to see that the Daily Show provided a tantalizing hook for the article, but it is hard to imagine how everyone was drawn to the piece by this alone. It made me think that there is something inherently interesting about non-JDs entering the legal industry. And while non-JDs have long had a role in support staffing — from admins to CFOs — Wiltfong’s job description transcended typical firm communications and struck at some core strategic competencies for a plaintiff-side firm where communications and outreach play a major role in the work itself.

It’s not clear WHY this is so fascinating. It could be that some people are excited about the expansion of this field. Others may be angry about the JD’s stranglehold over the practice. But there’s You can also find out more about the following: About it

Recently, I had a chat with Jonathan Harris, the Founder & Managing Partner of Harris St. Laurent Wechsler, and told me that there is a full time Ph.D. in Psychology at the firm. Dr. Monica DelgadoI asked him for more details on how JD came to look outside its box to find help.

Harris told us, “The idea was sparked by a conversation that I had with Paul Grand from Morvillo Abramowitz Grand many years ago.” “We were representing co-defendants in a criminal trial and our clients were (understandably), a mess. We were working on whether they should testify and they were having extraordinary trouble just wrapping their heads around what was going on, much less putting their best feet forward, and Paul said to me: ‘I see this all the time. They don’t have to hire an attorney right now. They just need someone who can help them mentally and emotionally prepare for their defense. That just struck me.”

In my own law practice, a colleague once told me the role of representing cooperating Witnesses used to give his dreams/nightmares he was an undertaker. He interpreted these dreams as a manifestation of the stress involved in guiding someone through testifying against their former colleagues and passing them over to their new life — which may or may not still involve criminal punishment. The impact was more obvious on the witnesses.

Harris said, “My core belief is that lawyers tend to overestimate JDs and clients benefit greatly from multi-disciplinary teamwork.” “If there are four people in a team, then three lawyers should be enough. I believe that lawyers overestimate the importance of legal processes in solving client problems. It’s great to have someone in the team who is not just focused on the next deposition or brief, but also focuses on other ways of solving the client’s problems, or helping the client to think about solving their problem.

We kept referring to the Apple brand and its “thinking different” theme.

“It opens so many doors when we bring someone with a psychology background into the room – everything from Monica’s world view, to the academic literature she has read, to her life experience is different. So, on a regular basis it’s a different insight/different point of view.

Law firms do, however, hire experts from outside to consult. Different perspectives under one roof can have a different impact.

Monica (and other professionals), by being under our roof, become part of the fabric. Monica, for instance, attends all of our firm lunches and is always available to speak with us. She also attends all firm events and speaks to multiple people every day. From casual conversations to long-term collaboration on a particular matter, Monica is there for everything. So, we are able to take advantage of her expertise and skills much more than with a consultant.

The hybrid work situation is still a controversial topic, and this is why I have never adopted a remote-only model. Knowledge can’t be categorized in a bullet-point email forever. Informal conversations become formal revelations. There may not be a need to sit in an office 40 hours (or more… we’re lawyers) a week, but there’s a need to sit in the office some part of that week.

It also allows for the portfolio of an expert to naturally grow. A psychology consultant is called in to do psychology work. The JD always acts as a gatekeeper, as the lawyerly lens is what determines whether a particular issue involves psychology. The psychologist will be hampered from the start.

Harris is not the sole non-JD in the firm. He explained that there is a full-time graphic designer with a real art degree at the firm, as well as an IT specialist working on cases.

The firm won’t stop there. “I would expect that we will add more nonlawyers to our firm as it grows.”

Earlier: Daily Show Correspondent Joins Law Firm because That’s the Logical Next Step

HeadshotJoe Patrice She is a senior writer at Above the Law as well as co-hosting Think Like A Lawyer. Feel free Email Any tips, questions or comments? Follow him on Twitter If you’re interested law, politics and a healthy dose college sports news. Joe also serves as an Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.


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