Survey of Non-Attorney Staffing Trends Finds Law Firms Underutilize IT
ALM Legal Intelligence polls leadership on information technology, legal support, financial, library, marketing, recruiting, and office services functions
NEW YORK – June 14, 2012 – A new report on how law firms are using non-attorney personnel identifies information technology as an underutilized function that could give strategic advantage to firms if properly sized and applied. While partners tend to pigeonhole IT people in operations, they have potential as key enablers of firms’ business strategies, according to the COOs, executive directors, managing directors and chief administrators who were surveyed and interviewed for ALM Legal Intelligence’s just published study.
Overall non-attorney staff payrolls have declined in recent years to 27 percent of firm expenses, respondents report, but more than half expect this ratio to hold steady over the next three years.
Other key conclusions of “Finding the Right Balance: Non-Attorney Staffing in Law Firms,” available at www.almlegalintel.com, include:
• Financing and accounting staff are increasingly expected to go beyond cost-cutting to aid partners in the strategizing and structuring of alternative fee arrangements. The collections function is also increasingly critical, with finance staff often paired with lawyers to optimize the process.
• Marketing and business development staff is considered integral to the business by 60 percent of respondents who feel that attorneys are more open than ever to new and creative ideas for business development. One area respondents felt marketers could contribute more: soliciting, analyzing and implementing service improvements based on client feedback.
• Librarians’ roles are shifting from hands-on legal researchers to trainers of lawyers and paralegals who, say 61 percent of respondents, are conducting their own primary research. Increasingly, informational professionals are refocusing on competitive intelligence and market research to support business development.
• Outsourcing of non-attorney functions has generally worked well for the 80 percent of respondents who have tried it. The best applications are in information technology and office services. Attempts to outsource other functions such as marketing have been less effective.
“This survey shows that law firms are better realizing the value of their non-lawyer experts in running their businesses,” says Jennifer Johnson, Founder of J. Johnson Executive Search, Inc. “The respondents’ answers indicate that firms are structuring non-lawyer staff in a smarter way which will most surely navigate them towards a higher level of client service and, no doubt, will result in higher profits,”
“In the current environment of intensifying competition and uncertain client relationships, professional managers at U.S. law firms are starting to see that non-attorney staff have the potential to play bigger, non-traditional roles,” said Kevin Iredell, vice president of research and continuing education at ALM. “Studies like ours should help both managers and partners to quantify the state-of-play in how firms are using these people and to visualize how they can be redeployed to address more effectively and strategically the business goals of the firm.”
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ALM Legal Intelligence offers detailed business information for and about the legal industry, focused on the top U.S. and international law firms. The division’s online research Web service, www.almlegalintel.com provides subscribers with direct, on-demand access to ALM Legal Intelligence’s extensive database of surveys, rankings and lists related to law firms and the legal industry. ALM Legal Intelligence is a division of ALM.
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