Posted on November 21, 2019 by Bill Lipner
The responsibilities of my first job as legal administrator was that of Human Resources. Creating an employee handbooks, looking after insurance benefits and claims, time and attendance and similar tasks were the bread and butter of the position. Along the way, I moved this 12-attorney firm from Lanier stand-along word processors to Kaypro Computers running WordPerfect. All very tactical work. My second job as an administrator was similar in nature, although I was elevated to preparing bi-monthly meeting books for the partners meetings. And I organized the food and drink for the Friday afternoon client-social-hour. Those were the days.
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But I digress.
I marvel at how the arc of time has transformed the job of legal administrator – no matter what size firm. I am firmly convinced that the “business of law” is in a transition: we’re in the “industrialization’ of the business of law, moving from guild to business process and business practice. And along the way these things are happening:
SERVICE: Readers of The LAD know that “service” is a hot-button topic for me. Service is that essential ingredient that can take a commodity (hotel room, airline seat, wills-and-trust practice) and make it something better and unique. It’s a fungible element of business with an almost mystical intersection of client expectations, delivery, technology, and personal touch (training required). And you are responsible for this aspect of the business.
TECHNOLOGY: where would we be without it. And where is it taking us. Technology has – and will continue – to transform the practice of law. Yes, its obvious – but what’s not so obvious is the need to develop a strategy that guides technology in the business. Technology has changed the very mechanics of the practice of law – and as we peer into the future – will be even more transformational than we can imagine – as collaboration technology brings us closer to clients, as AI technology scrubs out the mundane tasks to give us time for the real “thinking” work, and so much more. You must become close partners with the IT team – who’s job is to deliver technology: yours it to guide its direction.
HUMANS: its been a while since we’ve had 3 – or in many cases 4 – generations at work side by side. Generational diversity is happening whether we like it or not, while broad diversity has been recognized as healthy for any organization. Law firms struggle with these things and your job is to sort it all out.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT: The single hardest part of your job – I believe – is managing change. Its abundant in all aspects of your business – and at the end of the day – it’s a firm’s ability to ingest, digest, and nurture change – that will sort the winners from the losers. Change means changing people – at least while they’re at work. Revamping habits that are sometimes decades old isn’t easy – and often the benefits are not obvious – but effect change we must. The Kodak moment (or Wang or DEC … ) awaits us all.
Your job is like the guy with 36 sticks on which he’s spinning plates. It takes delegation, trust, collaboration, and people skills to make it all happen. We are here to help fair reader, with information sorted from the continuous stream of news and events coming your direction.