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Legal Support Staff Is on the Move

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 27, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Remember calling tech support, and the help was speaking to you from another country? Well, get used to it for law office help, too.

Law firms are realizing that it is cheaper to move some operations to less expensive venues. Hogan Lovells, for example, is moving 78 business service jobs and 12 legal support jobs from its London offices to Johannesburg and Birmingham.

It is trending to move legal services and administrative work, such as accounts payable, payroll, time and billing systems, to fairer climates. That's right, Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore.

Not Outsourcing

"This isn't outsourcing," said Chris Hinze, global head of communications at Hogan Lovells. "It's building up our capability with other local offices."

David Cruickshank, a law management consultant, told Bloomberg that it demonstrates "an initial trend to a potential necessity for firms that are based in expensive centers."

The shift affects legal staffers the most personally. If they are not prepared to move, they may have to move on. It's about adapting to a new paradigm.

"It's not just the economy; rapidly changing technology, growing client demands and law firm staff demographics also play a role," writes G.M. Filisko for the ABA Journal. "Jobs have been lost, and those that remain are morphing into bigger-responsibility positions."

New Staff Roles

The roles for law librarians, IT professionals, and other nonlawyer employees have changed. Law firm managers have to adapt, too.

"A lot of things are shifting and forcing law firms to evaluate how to manage and staff all these functions and become as efficient as they can be," says Oliver Yandle, executive director of the Association of Legal Administrators.

Staffing challenges in the new normal affect small and solo practitioners as much as the big firms -- perhaps even more fundamentally. After all, they can't do it all.

Virtual assistants -- whether they are smart devices or remote workers -- can help. Even as big law firms send support staff elsewhere, small firms may find them online.

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