Law firms change from lay-offs to compensation and training

FiredToday's market: protect yourself – get the training you need to keep your job and get top salary

At least people have stopped crouching behind their desks in an effort to hide from the Pink Slip Lady. That's according to a recent survey from ALM Intelligence, "Turf Wars: Defining New Roles and Competing for New Territories."

The recent report provides an overview of current staffing issues affecting AmLaw 200 law firms, the largest law firms in the U.S. The report is based on a survey of partners, associates, paralegals, support staff and law firm administrators.

The survey found that the top three factors currently working against overall law firm morale are: too much “deadweight” in the firm (34 percent); compensation too low compared to other firms (31 percent); and too much work for current staffing levels (31 percent).

“This is a dramatic change from our 2011 survey, when the top three factors cited as having a negative impact on morale were layoffs, bonus cuts and low compensation,” said Kevin Iredell, vice president of ALM Legal Intelligence.

The survey found that, in the coming year, 62 percent of firms are likely to be hiring new attorneys. However, 49 percent plan to reduce support staff, continuing a trend in recent years as firms strive to better leverage technology for greater operational efficiencies.  

The survey cites getting rid of deadweight; compensation too low and too much work for staff efficiencies.  Why 49% of the firms want to get rid of paralegals when there is too much work is a bit much.  However, perhaps  instead of getting rid of deadweight, these firms willl be smart enough to exchange deadweight for more productive support staff.

Let's clear some of this up.  What's going on is the traditional paralegal is going away and is being replaced by paralegals who are proficient in technology and are cross-trained in other areas.  Hybrids, some call them.  Someone say, who is a Paralegal/Litigation Support Manager or Paralegal/Records Manager.  Duties the paralegal perform now are being replaced by more sophisticated assignments that require more training outside of paralegal schools.  If you don't want to be replaced by someone who knows what you don't, you'd be smarter to get training now before trouble enters your career.

Other survey findings included the following:

  • In the next three years, significantly more respondents foresee legal process outsourcing growing at their firms (19 percent) than what was reported in 2011 (10 percent).  [This is due to technology.]
  • In the past year, nearly half of responding firms (47 percent) have promoted associates to Of Counsel, rather than to an equity partner position. [Stop with splitting the profits already.]
  • Law firms’ biggest challenges when it comes to staffing requirements are hiring (27 percent) and retaining key talent (26 percent).  [Treat everyone right, pay them decent salaries and remember that staff/paralegals are smarter than the average worker.  They'll stay.]
  • The top three qualities law firms look for when hiring new associates is practice expertise (29 percent), followed by Ivy League or top law school graduation (26 percent) and GPA (16 percent).  For more information, go to

How do these statistics relate to paralegals?  You will need to have top education, primo expertise and plenty of motivation on a regular basis to move your career forward. It's the way of things now, folks…….Ride the horse in the direction it's going.