The latest Hildebrandt Law Department Survey shows that the median number of lawyers per secretary was four. Four?! Only a few years ago that ratio was closer to two. What’s going on?
Three reasons, particularly, account for the shift. The storm surge of e-mail and Blackberry messages has scaled back the number of letters and memos. Headcount constraints have cut more sharply into the secretarial support ranks than into the lawyer ranks. The more recent lawyers can all type proficiently and would prefer to do their own drafts and revisions.
Some secondary shifts in work practices account for some of the reduction in secretarial support. Electronic documents obviate filing. It may be that some paralegals are doing a bit of work that secretaries formerly did or that secretaries are being treated as paralegals for pay and reporting purposes, but are continuing to do much the same work as they did previously. A few law departments with lawyers located at business units may also rely on business unit secretarial support.
For all these reasons, we see fewer secretaries per lawyer in law departments.