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Trend toward fewer support staff per lawyer?

According to Counsel to Counsel, Jan. 2007 at 6, the law department of Cummins, a $9.9 billion manufacturer of engines, has 21 lawyers but only 9 non-lawyers. Another example of a staffing ratio tilted heavily toward lawyers is Cisco Systems. According to 2005 material from the GC Roundtable, reproduced by Business Integrity at 2, Cisco has 75 in-house attorneys and 37 non-lawyers.

The traditional ratio of one lawyer for ever one non-lawyer are common (See my posts of March 26, 2006 on EMC and the ratio of one-to-one; May 10, 2006 on 160 lawyers and 140 support at the Dept of State; Jan. 25, 2007 on GM with its 107 attorneys and 109 support staff; Dec. 23, 2005 on the ratio of one-to-one in prosecuting attorney’s offices.)

My sense is that the proportion of administrative assistants will decline (See my posts of May 17, 2006 about the proliferation and inflation of titles for this position; and April 23, 2006 about the change in ratios of secretaries to lawyers toward 4 to 1.). A major reason for that decline, and eventual virtual extinction, will be better dictation and voice recognition resources (See my posts of Nov. 20, 2006 on dictation; and Feb. 4, 2007 and Feb. 6, 2007 on word-to-text capabilities.) and the ubiquity of lawyers who can type rapidly and search for documents quickly. Sometimes lawyers who office in the midst of their clients share secretarial support with non-lawyers and those support staff do not show up on the law department headcount.

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