In what is likely a pure coincidence but one could view symbolically, as Legal Tech New York begins today, articles today report on two large US law firms that have announced significant steps to reduce staff costs.
The bigger announcement is Kaye Scholer Latest Large Law Firm to Shift Back-Office Operations to Less Costly Locale (Am Law Daily). Last October, I asked in a post, Will Pillsbury’s Nashville Service Center Trigger More BigLaw Cost-Saving Moves. The answer is yes. Enough large firms now have low cost service centers that we can no longer view them as outliers. What is particularly interesting is that Kaye Scholer is not that big - just over 400 lawyers. The setting up of a 100-person, multiple staff department center in Tallahassee was driven partly by a firm move in Manhattan and an effort to reduce real estate cost. Many firms operating in major metro areas face similar economics.
Also announced today: Offering Buyouts, Blank Rome Looks to Trim Secretarial Ranks (The Legal Intelligencer). The article reports on how older and younger lawyers use secretaries in different ways and at different ratios. Whereas more senior lawyers work in lawyer to secretary ratios of 1 to 1 or 2 to 1, ” associates are using secretaries at a rate of six or seven attorneys to every one secretary.” The firm expects to reduce its secretarial count by 30. It will set up a 12-secretary team in Philadelphia to serve most associates. (My 2003 article, The Future of Legal Secretaries, suggested that firms adopt secretarial teams.) In my experience, many firms still need to rationalize how they deploy secretaries.
Here at the New York Hilton, the venue for the annual Legal Tech show, e-discovery continues to be the dominant theme. Having registered for the show as a blogger, I have received a stream of vendor announcements. Most are about EDD and/or what strike me as incremental software upgrades. As large firms continue to open low cost service centers or rationalize staff support, I have to wonder if there a gap in the legal provider market.