Mitotic cell division requires that kinetochores form microtubule attachments that can segregate chromosomes and control mitotic progression via the spindle assembly checkpoint. During prometaphase, kinetochores shed a domain called the fibrous corona as microtubule attachments form. This shedding is mediated, in part, by the minus-end directed motor dynein, which ‘strips’ cargoes along K-fibre microtubules. Despite its essentiality, little is known about how dynein stripping is regulated and how it responds to attachment maturation. Lis1 (also known as PAFAH1B1) is a conserved dynein regulator that is mutated in the neurodevelopmental disease lissencephaly. Here, we have combined loss-of-function studies, high-resolution imaging and separation-of-function mutants to define how Lis1 contributes to dynein-mediated corona stripping in HeLa cells. Cells depleted of Lis1 fail to disassemble the corona and show a delay in metaphase as a result of persistent checkpoint activation. Furthermore, we find that although kinetochore-tethered Lis1–dynein is required for error-free microtubule attachment, the contribution of Lis1 to corona disassembly can be mediated by a cytoplasmic pool. These findings support the idea that Lis1 drives dynein function at kinetochores to ensure corona disassembly and prevent chromosome mis-segregation.