Dear American Lawyer, the leading trade publication for our profession:

Those of us who have dedicated our careers as legal industry professionals would like you to understand that the term “non-lawyer” is offensive, and does a disservice to all of the firms that are being run as businesses.

Your August 17, 2017, headline: Husch Blackwell’s Next Leader is a Newly Employed Non-Lawyer caught the eye of the LME on Facebook. One of our members wrote the author today:

Dear Ms. Rozen,

I read with great interest your recent article about the newly promoted CEO of Husch Blackwell, Paul Eberle. It’s a sad state of affairs that it’s newsworthy when someone who is an actual business executive is tapped to run a law firm; nonetheless, it is big news in BigLaw, so I thank you for covering it.

Having said this, I must take exception to your headline identifying Mr. Eberle as a “Newly Hired Non-Lawyer”. Quite frankly, it is a ridiculous turn-of-phrase. This is a man with over twenty years of business experience, and your headline and article essentially relegate him to second-class status by the use of the “non”. There is no other profession that demeans its colleagues in this way, and I am sad to see a journalist perpetuating the law firm caste system. In addition, is an employee with two years on the job really “newly hired”? I would like to ask you to consider forever banishing the phrase “non-lawyer” from your lexicon.

I’ve taken the liberty of re-writing your headline and leading paragraph in a way that conveys both the unique nature of Mr. Eberle’s promotion, and which also respects his business experience.

Husch Blackwell Chooses Experienced Business Executive to Lead Firm

When Paul Eberle assumes the CEO role at Husch Blackwell in February 2018, he will have spent less than two years working at the firm he presides over, however, he will bring over 20 years of executive level business experience to the role.

I sincerely hope that the next time you have the opportunity to write about someone who works in a professional role in a law firm, but who may not have a law degree, you will consider using words that accurately describe his or her education, credentials, and experience.

Press Release: Husch Blackwell Elects Smith, Eberle to Executive Positions

  • We face this same type of discrimination in the divorce mediation space with some of us (like me) being “non-attorney mediators” and others being “attorney-mediators.” I wonder if a person is qualified to do the job (as is the case with the professional noted in your article), why make the distinction?