Peer to Peer Magazine

December 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 16 of 111

best practices New Training for New Legal Secretary Roles by Paula Anderson of Traveling Coaches Gone are the days when each secretary supported a single lawyer, spending much of the day placing phone calls on their behalf and over an hour each day filing piles of paperwork. As the practice of law has changed over the last 15 years, new technologies and new business processes have significantly impacted the role of the legal secretary. A multigenerational workforce and recent economic uncertainties coupled with the explosion of new technology mean the pace of change will only increase in the next few years. Technology and Efficiency Drive Changes Electronic records and the evolution of records management departments, the growth of document services and document production departments, and electronic billing and time-entry systems are some of the technological changes that affect legal secretaries. Increased use of technology by lawyers, especially newer associates, tends to separate secretaries from client information and reduces their interaction with clients. More and more lawyers are creating and editing their own work product. In many firms today, the first draft of a document is produced by the lawyer, 18 Peer to Peer not their secretary. The increased use of mobile devices further separates secretaries from communication with clients as more informal email or text messages take the place of formal correspondence. In addition, the rise of alternative fee arrangements and legal project management in law firms is creating a more practice-based approach to client work as efficiency, rather than billable hours, becomes a standard measurement. Management's Concerns For firm management, there are a number of concerns regarding the changing role of legal secretaries. • Longevity: Many don't expect long-term commitments from the new generation of workers. Rather than a career, firms may view the job of legal secretary as temporary or transitional. • Support Levels: Lawyers want more than word processing from their secretaries. In fact, many firms no longer use the title "legal secretary" but refer to those in this role as "professional assistants" or "legal assistants." Many are

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