eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Careers: Achieving Success as a Non-Attorney in a Law Firm — Introduction


In the 30+ years that I’ve been working in litigation, I’ve seen a dramatic change in law firm culture and operations.  Let me start with what it was like way back when:

  • Law firms thrived simply by having talented attorneys with winning records.
  • Law firms got business based almost exclusively on the relationships that partners had with clients.
  • It didn’t matter if law firms were behind the rest of the world with regard to technology use.  Clients didn’t care.
  • Clients didn’t pay too much attention to bills.  Attorneys were expensive and that’s just the way it was.

This meant that law firms didn’t have to operate efficiently.  They did legal work, they billed their clients, they got paid, and they got more business.

How times have changed!  Here’s what it’s like today:

  • Clients pay close attention to the costs of legal representation. 
  • Clients want to know how much legal services will cost.  They want to know what they’ll be paying for.  They want to know what type of people will be working on their cases and how much those people cost. 
  • Clients dictate what they will pay for and what they won’t.
  • Clients want to know what technology will be used.   
  • Clients scrutinize bills and they question costs that they think are excessive or didn’t expect

In short, clients have forced law firms to be competitive, to do marketing, and – most significantly – to be efficient.  Clients are forcing law firms to operate like the rest of the business world.

This shift in operations and culture means more opportunities for non-attorney professionals.  Law firms today need more than talented attorneys.  They also need talented business, technology, and marketing professionals.

Today, I see more and more non-attorneys attaining senior level positions and high compensation levels in law firms.  I see non-attorneys treated as equals by senior partners in law firms.  I have also, though, seen very talented people who haven’t climbed that ladder of success in a law firm.  The difference doesn’t always come down to knowledge and skills.  To achieve that success, we have to do more than be good at our jobs.  That’s what I’ll be focusing on in this blog series.  I’ll walk you through some steps you can take and techniques you can employ that will increase your odds of grabbing that brass ring. Specifically, we’ll cover six general topics:

  1. Find/make the right environment
  2. Know your stuff
  3. Make yourself well-known
  4. Make yourself critical
  5. Expand what you do
  6. Master some good habits

Next week, we will begin talking about finding/making the right environment.  See you then!

So, what do you think?  Have you gotten to the position you’ve sought in your firm?  Do you have tips you can share?  Please let us know or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.