Hourglass to almond: shifting to more paralegals and fewer secretaries

For a recent consulting project, I used these two shapes to describe on the non-lawyer side how law departments are changing composition. The older model had many lawyers, a few paralegals, and many secretaries – the hourglass. Progressive law departments these days are hiring more paralegals, rafts of them sometimes (such as at Rouse), and are shedding secretaries as lawyers resort mostly to email and telephone as well as holding down lawyer headcount – bulging more in the middle and slimmer at both ends, the almond.

Re-jiggering staff in this way makes sense. Paralegals can be highly productive yet much less expensive than lawyers. Secretaries, or at least the 20th century version, are a breed at risk of extinction as travel agencies nibble away what they used to do, online calendaring helps with scheduling meetings, PDAs become ubiquitous, no one writes letters, and the talent pool dries up.

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