ACC Docket, Vol. 30, June 2008 at 44, explains how the law department of Starbucks Coffee Company uses paralegals “to perform a significant volume of real estate and intellectual property work.” The company’s global legal department is comprised of approximately 150 “partners,” which is the term the company uses for its legal employees.
Interestingly, about one third of the partners are attorneys, while paralegals and other staff members account for about two thirds. The customary ratio is one for one (See my posts of March 26, 2006: EMC and its ratio of one-to-one; May 10, 2006: the US Department of State and its 160 lawyers and 140 support staff; Jan. 25, 2007: GM with its 107 attorneys and 109 support staff; and Dec. 23, 2005 prosecuting attorney’s offices.).
To be sure, some law departments tilt on the side that Starbucks does (See my post of Nov. 28, 2007: Cummins and CISCO.). Where there is a flow of similar legal work, such as the real property needs of Starbucks and its trademark portfolio, it makes complete sense to move toward more support staff than lawyers.