Of counsel / Briefkopftitel

Some lawyers on the letterheads of American law firms, and increasingly of English ones too, are described as being ‘of counsel’.

On a letterhead it usually means a senior lawyer who is semi-retired. (In England, that used to be consultant)
But I gather it’s beginning to refer to younger lawyers who have been around a while but are not going to be made partners.

Off a letterhead, it can mean a lawyer from another firm who helps a lawyer in a case.

In the Times Law Weblog, Edward Fennell commented on Herbert Smith introducing this.

bq. So the firm’s decision, announced this week, that it is setting up a new “career path” for associates seems entirely in keeping with this philosophy. Those selected will be given extra status, a possible bonus and additional perks. Can’t be bad. …
But they [big law firms] also need able people who – while not necessarily “ticking all the boxes” for partnership – still have a terrific amount to offer in turning the wheels of profitability.
My gripe, were I amongst them, is the adoption of the grating Americanism “Of Counsel”. Come on, we’re British – the English language can do better than this.

I don’t know if ‘grating Americanism’ is the problem, but it is a difficult expression to handle as a noun. To quote Herbert Smith:

bq. Norman Green, Chief Operating Officer at Herbert Smith, commented:
“We believe there is a clear business need for an alternative career structure, a belief supported by the soundings we took among associates. We look forward to announcing the first group of Of Counsel in September.

I do like Herbert Smith’s current opening page.

Here’s something on the subject in the USA: The Of Counsel Relationship, by Nancy Kaufmann.

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