I came across an article the other day, written by Nancy Byerly Jones entitled: Treating ‘non-lawyers’ with respect. Here’s the intro:
A couple of Twitter “tweets” I’ve read recently referenced a lawyer disciplined for allowing “non-lawyers” to do something that only a licensed attorney should have done. I really dislike the “n-l” word, so I suggested in a reply “tweet” that surely we could all find more respectful words to use when referring to those who do not practice law for a living.
While I certainly agree that there are enough firms and attorneys out there with egos and issues who look down upon support staff AND I agree that the staff at a law firm very rarely get the appreciation and respect they truly deserve, I don’t think that has anything to do with the term “non-lawyer”.
“Non-lawyer” is just a word and means anyone not holding a JD. It easily helps me identify who we are speaking of because at a firm, there are so many levels and titles and such. Some paralegals prefer to be called legal assistants, and in some states you can’t call someone a “paralegal” without some form of certification. It’s all very confusing.
To top it all off, what other term are you going to use? You can’t use “professional staff” as then all the non-attorneys would get their panties in a bunch that they were being called “non professionals”… and the only other term that’s even close is “lay person”. Now there’s a reference I don’t like: “lay person” – it doesn’t make sense to those outside of law and just the words are kinda funny. I definitely prefer “non-lawyer” over “lay person”.
Of course, there are attorneys who spew out the term “non-lawyer” in a derogatory fashion, but they can use the same tone on the words “secretary”; “assistant” or even “support staff”. In other words, it’s the person – not the term.
How do you feel about the word “non-lawyer”? Take my 2 second poll: