Peer to Peer Magazine

June 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 86 of 135

A Look Inside Lawyer Focus Groups: Their Work Has Changed; Has Yours? by Tami Schiller of Traveling Coaches It is not "business as usual" in most law firms. We know that the volatile economic climate has caused many firms to make staff reductions, ultimately resulting in higher lawyer-to- legal secretary ratios. We have listened as younger lawyers talk about balancing their home and work lives. We read the frequent news stories about lawyers moving from one firm to another or starting solo practices, and globalization has firms merging across international borders. And, of course, technology is changing at an unprecedented rate, and lawyers are bringing the latest consumer devices into the office. These developments are changing how, when and where lawyers work. In the last 12 months, we have conducted lawyer focus groups at various firms, soliciting insight into how their work has changed and what challenges they face on a daily basis. In many cases, our findings surprised the firms' trainers and IT staff, and challenged the teams to contemplate changing the way they deploy technology and provide user support. Work Flows Through Firms Differently Legal Secretaries: The changes have been so profound that I wanted to start this first paragraph with "Once upon a time, there was a magical assistant called a legal secretary who could create documents with a twitch of her nose." For most, the concept of the legal secretary as the center of all communication and documents coming in to and going out of the law firm has disappeared. The secretary, once the foundation of the legal team and the keeper of details surrounding the lawyer's active cases, now supports several lawyers and often does not fully interact with all stages of client work. And the increased use of smartphones means that many conversations take place away from the office, decreasing the chance that conversation details will be shared with the legal secretary. Partners Versus Associates: The ALM Legal Intelligence Report "Life After Leverage," published in December of 2011, shows that partners have been doing more work compared to associates over the last few years. Only 28 percent of the firms responding to 88 Peer to Peer

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