In the late 1980s when I joined the legal industry in administrative support roles, most secretaries supported only one or two attorneys. Managing partners, general counsel and rainmakers most likely ranked an exclusive monogamous relationship.
Over the years this one-to-one ratio has increased dramatically, to sometimes as much as one administrative support professional to 7 or 8 attorneys, the workload has increased and clients demand more bang for their legal buck. Because secretaries are required to support more, attorneys have been incorporated into the document production process.
And while using technology seems second nature to next generation attorneys, they lack the specialized skills required to manage basic document production efficiently. At a recent Professional Development Consortium led by Casey Flaherty, General Counsel of Kia Motors, he emphasized client expectations for outside counsel to be technically capable, not cars. The results of the joint Suffolk-Flaherty Tech Audit were disappointing to say the least. Flaherty further emphasized law firms’ inability to justify charging “outrageous sums for unnecessary busywork” for technical tasks that could be performed in a fraction of the time if attorneys attained basic technical skills.
Traditionally, non-CLE credit training for attorneys has been difficult, if not impossible, to implement consistently. However, with the limited administrative support systems within law firms today that require attorneys to perform basic document production, training on essential firm systems is vital to support client demands, maintain client relationships, and provide platinum client service.