On a panel entitled “Governing Globalization” at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith reminded his audience that thirty years ago, legal secretaries typically worked for two lawyers; today, each supports the work of about ten. A range of new technology has dramatically reduced the need for support staff at law firms, and those who will continue to be employed in future are those who are strongest in the “soft skills” that make them essential to a law practice.
A Bloomberg Big Law article on the panel, “Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Toasts Legal Secretaries,” describes the skills that distinguish successful support staff personnel – those who can work with ten lawyers at a time – as “not only interpersonal communication, but things like the ability to work collaboratively, to adapt to a new set of demands, and to solve problems on the fly.”
As the role of the secretary continues to evolve from clerical worker to administrative assistant, ongoing training and feedback are clearly vital. Without it, the legal support staff person is the most endangered species in the legal profession.
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