Support staff spread thinner

December 10, 2008
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Let’s keep this blog’s discussion about law firm staff cuts going and talk about support staff cuts today. The National Law Journal has an article about paralegal, secretary, and other support staff cuts at firms. Firms are looking to cut costs wherever they can, whether it’s by slashing marketing departments (see previous blog posts), trimming support staff, or letting go of underperforming associates.

Having one paralegal per attorney may not be the best business decision for most firms, but spreading out a paralegal and support staff amongst four, or more, attorneys could backfire. The paralegals’ workloads will increase dramatically, leading to slowdowns until they can adjust (if they can adjust). More work means less time to devote to items, which could cause their work to suffer, which impacts the attorneys’ work.

It also will lead to attorneys having to pick up the slack in order to keep clients happy and most likely billing clients for the work. I guess that’s one way to bring more money into a firm.

I understand that businesses have to make money, that’s why they are a business and not a non-profit. However, does it make the most business sense to cut from non-legal departments and support staff than cutting attorneys?
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  • Having been quoted in the above article and having been in the legal field now for 20 years specializing in paralegals, I can tell you that the optimum number any firm ever hopes for is a 3::1 ratio - three attorneys to one paralegal. For years now, however, that ratio has run about 5::1.

    Let\'s just all hope for better times all around!

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