Saturday, November 8, 2014

Are Legal Secretaries Being Stretched (and Stressed) to the Max?

As the role of the legal secretary evolves, it seems that more and more assistants are being asked to do things that used to be the responsibility of other departments within the firm.

Because most/many/all of the younger associates do their own typing (when is the last time an attorney dictated a brief for you to type?) and often don't know all the ways to utilize their assistant's skill sets, we're moving farther away from secretarial "duties" into the realm of accounting, billing, paralegal work, you name it.

Not that I'm complaining.  I am very grateful to be gainfully employed and I'm willing to do whatever is asked of me.  But, often I feel that I'm not able to give as much attention to tasks as I have in previous times, because I'm constantly swapping hats.  

Preparing binders used to be "billable."  But as clients became more and more legal savvy and hired teams of in-house attorneys to check and double check everything the law firms bill for, there are fewer tasks that fall into the "billable" category.  And those things get passed down to - you guessed it.

And there is no such thing as one or two or even three attorneys per secretary - the average these days seems to be one secretary for every five attorneys and that has been extended, at some firms, to ten to one or a "pool" of secretaries with no assigned attorney at all.

To be honest, I don't see things changing any time soon.  I also see a whole new crop of younger men and women, and increasingly men, who are recent college graduates with ambitions of a legal career stepping into legal secretarial roles at a lower salary than a "seasoned" secretary.

So, what happens to the seasoned secretary?  She/he either continues to take their multivitamins, sharpen their skills set, learn new ways to work and get with the program or. . .let's not think about that.