Peer to Peer Magazine

Spring 2015

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 56 of 75

PEER TO PEER: THE QUARTERLY MAGA ZINE OF ILTA 58 FEATURES THE CURRENT ERA As the demand for non-attorney fee- earning positions has increased, a new generation of managers of practice support has emerged. Some of these roles have been filled by managers who originally supervised paralegals only. Other managers have worked through the ranks of various practice support specialties to become supervisors. As with paralegals, it makes economic sense for a firm to employ supervisors at a lower compensation rate than lawyers. Unlike paralegals, the level of expertise needed to manage certain practice support groups effectively requires skills not taught to lawyers. Few attorneys have adequate experience to supervise the daily activities of personnel acting as litigation support analysts or IP professionals. Legal organizations are experimenting with different practice support management structures. Some of the more common models include: • Having a Firmwide Practice Support Director: Under this model, all non-attorney fee earners are assigned to a single department within the organization. While an individual might primarily support a particular legal department or practice group, their administrative supervision is centralized. This permits the organization to create a unified administrative and compensation system that rewards contributions in a consistent fashion. This director-level position typically is IN THE BEGINNING Paralegal managers first appeared in large numbers in the 1980s. Lawyers recognized that time spent on paralegal administration reduced their ability to generate revenue by practicing law. Talented individuals who showed leadership attributes were put in charge of the ever-growing cadre of paralegals. The primary qualification for attaining this supervisory role was being a good project manager who showed an interest in personnel management. For those of us who were among the first wave of paralegal supervisors, there was a vacuum of information and training on managing within the legal environment. Traditional business school training did not cover legal organizations, and there was no previous generation of managers to turn to for mentoring. The Legal Assistant Management Association (now the International Practice Management Association, aka the IPMA) was founded in 1984 to provide a forum for training and to create a community where members could share their experiences in supervising non-attorney revenue- generating employees. No matter the economic forecast, lawyers are always looking to lower the costs of delivering services, increase technology use and create alternative revenue streams. One outcome of these efforts is the creation of new non-attorney fee-earning positions. The original non-attorney timekeepers were paralegals, and the capacity to charge for paralegal time on an hourly basis is the foundation upon which many other revenue- producing practice support roles have been built. In firms of all sizes, billing rates have been established for litigation support personnel, intellectual property professionals, government relation specialists, legal nurse practitioners and contract attorneys. This array of practice support positions has helped attorneys offer clients comprehensive services that go beyond traditional legal advice. While not officially "paralegals," other practice support personnel roles are similar, since the positions require specific education, training or work experience to qualify the person to assist in the delivery of legal work. Finding Success in Practice Support Professional associations provide much of the formal education available for practice support positions.

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