Blank Rome Chief Human Resources Officer Allison V. Friend said the firm could have obtained a 4-1 ratio and still maintained the typical secretary model.
But "in a lot of situations that just doesn't work," Friend said.
The solution for Blank Rome was the three-pronged approach that includes the creation of the Associate Resource Center, or ARC. The new center, anticipated to be up and running in a few months, will have about 12 secretaries on staff and will be based in Philadelphia. ARC will serve as the secretary pool for the bulk of associates who were not relying on legal secretaries for their traditional functions. Friend said she anticipates ARC being staffed by existing Blank Rome staff.
There will be dedicated teams within ARC for the firm's litigation and business law associates. They will have the highest technology skills and use things like instant messaging and Skype to interact with associates across the firm's global footprint, Friend said.
"We weren't supporting [the associates] in the way they needed," Friend said, adding she and her team sat down with associates and secretaries to see what type of technology and services were most helpful to them.
Outside of ARC, there will also be groups of legal secretaries for specialized practice areas such as intellectual property, Friend said. Hoffman noted those types of practices require specialized knowledge in terms of filings and court rules.
The third secretarial pool will be more along the lines of a traditional model in that it will serve to support the older attorneys who require more one-on-one secretarial support, Friend said.
She said attorneys will still be supported by an assigned secretary, but the secretaries will be working in teams as well. Friend also noted that the lawyers are not going to start billing for work that used to be done by secretaries. Rather, the increased use of technology will allow secretaries to do things differently, she said.
"Lawyers are supposed to lawyer as opposed to doing secretarial functions," Hoffman said.
It used to be that secretaries were placed outside of every lawyer's office so they could be in shouting distance of one another, Hoffman said.