Last Thursday, we discussed all there is to know about non-attorney roles in legal with Trina Pacheco Walker, Kelsey Copeland, and Eric Lentell. They touched on their first non-JD hires, how they convey the value of these roles, what they envision for the future of legal departments, and even more. Here’s what we learned.
1. Stand aside, attorneys. There are some things we can do without you.
There are tons of tasks that fall to the legal department but don’t require an attorney. Many can be handled by a seasoned non-JD pro, such as a paralegal or contract coordinator. TriNet is all over this approach — less than a third of their 90-person in-house legal team are attorneys.
Sometimes an attorney is not only unnecessary but ill-equipped. For example, a non-JD with an understanding of business development, analytics, and project management makes for a great legal ops manager. Plus, they’re a whole lot cheaper.
If you’re a solo GC or a small team at a scrappy startup and can only make one non-JD hire, go for a dynamic all-rounder. If they can kick ass at everything from legal ops to managing contracts and supporting litigation efforts, that could be a game-changer.
2. To JD or not to JD? That is the question.
Have a good, hard look at all the functions and processes in your department and identify the biggest time-vacuums and headache-inducers. Once you have an understanding of your needs and inefficiencies, you can make hiring decisions that boost productivity.
Start with your highest volume tasks because that’s where you can have the biggest impact. For example, if you have heaps of contracts coming through the business and every single one is landing on an attorney’s desk, you might be able to use software and non-JDs to improve the intake system and ensure that contracts only surface for attorneys when there is a legal decision to be made.
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3. Get the dinosaurs on board.
Some senior management teams ride e-scooters to work while TikToking dank memes and sipping on breakfast kombucha but others are a little more old school. If your C-suite is resistant to hiring non-JDs, you can convert them by demonstrating how non-JD hires will save time, save money and boost productivity.
Try to link non-JDs to a strategic advantage. For example, the right legal ops talent could cut the time it takes to close on sales deals, giving the business a competitive edge.
When you make your case to the higher-ups, think tactically. Prep some data. Build out the use case. Present it in a way that they are used to when making decisions about resource requests from any other department.
It’ll make hiring requests much easier if you nurture good relationships with the C-suite over time, toot your department’s horn on the regular and keep management up to date on any major pain points.
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4. Get everyone on board.
It’s not just the C-suite that needs to get with the program when it comes to your non-JD hiring strategy. If attorneys aren’t engaged with your new legal ops approach, the whole thing could be a dud.
Legal ops should also collaborate and communicate with other departments, especially people in ops roles. It’s a great way for non-JDs to learn and develop their personal brand. It ensures that other systems (e.g IT and HR systems) integrate seamlessly into legal ops processes. Plus, if legal ops are involved early on in things like product development, that can help to nip issues in the bud.
5. Get tech’d up.
It’s official. AI is stealing our jobs. Well, kinda. We’re seeing the largest inflow of cash ever to legal tech from private equity and venture capital. For example, Archer Aviation recently adopted open-source NDAs that allow parties to simply click to choose from a selection of terms.
Tech tools will probably allow legal departments to operate with fewer humans overall but they’ll need non-JDs to manage those tools. Non-JDs are also often the people who are able to highlight when and where tech tools can add value and create efficiency.
Our panel’s favorite software tools include:
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⭐️ The Lawtrades Team