Can lawyers be 'experts'?

There is no reason why lawyers should not make good consultants. Indeed, consultancy work's transactional nature makes it more akin to law practice than to accountancy.

But a consultant needs to have two primary attributes – expertise and skills. For most lawyers their expertise lies in the law, not personnel or practice management or IT.

It is frightening to consider the number of lawyers who have experience of only one law firm, or who have spent perhaps a couple of years using computers, who then assume they have the necessary expertise to advise others.

Most lawyers do not intrinsically possess the personal skills to advise others. These skills need to be learned over time. Consultants need to listen to people, not just tell them what they must do. And they need to change the “I know something you don't” attitude and learn to pass on information.

Recently there was an advertisement in one journal from a solicitor who had learned the “hard way” providing computerising consultancy work. The message was: “Done it once, know all about it.” What arrogance and naivetC. No wonder he had to learn the hard way.

Some lawyers can also be naive purchasers of consultancy. They assume another lawyer will not let them down, and if someone knows more than they do about a particular topic, then their knowledge must be encyclopaedic.

The author, a consultant, wishes to remain anonymous.