Herrick, Feinstein LLP: Underpinning Evolving Support Staff Structures with Workflow Technology 

93% of firms have made changes to their support structure in the last two years, with 63% planning further changes over the next two years.

For over the last two years, BigHand has been monitoring the evolution of the pressure on legal support resources. Driven by a multitude of factors - from attrition & retirement and the ongoing recruitment challenge to hybrid working - it is now largely acknowledged that the traditional support model of PAs assigned to specific lawyers is not sustainable in the long term. 

As a progressive, mid-sized New York City based law firm, Herrick, Feinstein LLP had initiated a programme to restructure and centralise its support staff resource prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a lack of time and suitable underpinning technology had meant that the transition from traditional workflows was slow in its adoption.  

This all changed when Herrick’s Chief Administration Officer, Susanne Fullam, attended an Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) luncheon back in 2019. She was introduced to BigHand’s legal workflow tool and after adopting the solution, the firm’s support staff has since reaped the benefits. 

Foundation for Change 

Herrick is a full-service law firm with a long-standing history of serving clients for over 95 years. Based primarily in New York City, the firm’s 130+ attorneys and 110+support staff are key to its culture of collaborative problem solving, which in turn underpins its client service delivery model. 

This focus on collaboration and problem-solving prompted Herrick to move from the industry’s more traditional support staff structure to one based on a centralised team of legal secretaries – or practice assistants (PAs) – working in lockstep alongside an administrative resource pool and outsourced functions. The rationale being that work would be done both in the most efficient and expedient way possible as well as by the right level of resource.  

As Susanne Fullam explains,Prior to COVID, we had moved to a model whereby our practice assistant staff were effectively operating as a single team, supported by an outsourced administrative resource center as well as outsourced word processing and other functions such as mailroom and hospitality. However, the distributed working environment that was imposed upon us all during the pandemic really formed the catalyst for the next step in the evolution of our support staff structure.” 

Outsourcing essential administrative duties wasn’t sustainable when pivoting to a remote work environment. The inefficiencies in this model became more apparent and change was needed. BigHand’s latest research reports show that Herrick isn’t the only firm evolving their support staff structure with 64% of firms globally focusing on giving the right work to the right people on their staff and 59% of firms seeking improved operational efficiency through better staff utilization. The evolution of support staff structure at Herrick meant establishing the firm’s own in-house Administrative Resource Center (ARC). 

Supporting new workflows 

Herrick recognised that the key to maximising the efficiency of an in-house ARC is to have a strong workflow technology platform. A platform that could support the firm’s evolving workflow and provide visibility. This was validated during an ALA lunch that Susanne attended in 2019.  

“We had been a long-standing user of BigHand Dictation and Speech Recognition,” she says. “So, when I heard BigHand talking about their workflow platform, it was immediately obvious that this was technology that we needed to learn more about.” Consequently, Herrick began a phased approach to the implementation of BigHand Workflow Management. 

Spearheading the implementation and change management process for Herrick was the firm’s Business Operations Manager, Allison O’Reilly. “Essentially, my role at Herrick’s is a hybrid one,” Allison explains. “Having started off my career working directly for the previous Managing Director, when we created the new support staffing teams, I was particularly interested in bringing together my interest in technology and workflow. Effectively, I form the bridge between the PA team, ARC and the business users and ensure that the technology provides the underpinning structure to deliver the outcomes we need.” 

Prior to achieving full roll out to all its attorneys, Herrick wanted to ensure that the Administrative Resource team and the PA team were comfortable with the technology. “We started slowly,” Allison says, “which coincided with the refilling of the new in-house ARC team. Once those two critical teams were onboarded, we expanded the platform to include our word processing team and mailroom as well as identifying pilot users amongst our attorneys and paralegals. For us, the steady approach definitely worked and gave us ample time for training and change management, which we felt was essential coming off the back of a highly unsettled period for both the business and staff.” 

Essential Visibility 

Since going live with BigHand Workflow Management, Herrick, Feinstein LLP has recognised several operational benefits, including: 

  • Greater visibility of support staff work allocation 
  • Ability to make more informed staffing decisions
  • Faster turnaround times 

As Allison explains,We can now see on a daily basis that the right work is going to the right support team, which has been really beneficial. For support staff and the PA team in particular, it means they are getting the higher value tasks that make optimal use of their skillsets, which is vital for staff morale and retention, while for some of our support departments – whose work was previously being done secondarily to the attorneys’ work –means faster turnaround.  

“Likewise, our attorneys are benefiting from having access to a full pool of highly competent PAs, who can direct work between them when needed, because they’re not reliant on a single PA resource. They can now trust that the work will get done, to a high standard, within the timeframe it needs to get done. In turn that means they can spend more time focusing on their billable hours rather than worrying about admin.”  

Susanne concludes,Significantly, BigHand is also providing us with insight into staffing decisions as we can now see what capacity our teams are at and what skills are needed most. It’s visibility we haven’t had before – and it is essential at a time when support staff attrition / replacement is a significant challenge for the whole industry.” 


Structural change to create support service that meets the needs of both lawyers and support staff is essential. Firms need to better understand what skills are required in a changing workplace dynamic and be able to have the data to move away from just replacing like-for-like.  

To future proof service delivery, firms need to identify current and emerging skills gaps and put in place robust plans for attracting, retaining and upskilling staff to safeguard productivity. As Herrick Feinstein LLP has evidenced, workflow technology can be both the tool that facilitates that change and provide the evidence and visibility for intelligent future-proof business decisions.

Herrick Feinstein are not the only firm looking to enhance their support structure. To learn more on why more firms are evolving their support staff structures to respond to declining client demand, read BigHand’s latest industry report.  


About BigHand Workflow Management

To provide the best client service while supporting your bottom line, it’s vital to ensure your teams are working efficiently and smartly. Ineffective and outdated methods of delegating tasks makes it easy for things to be overlooked, means your workforce isn’t properly optimised, your tasks aren’t being delivered on time, and your bottom line is suffering as a result. BigHand Workflow Management is a task management solution that lets you turn your tasks into fully auditable, digital workflow entries. You can create tasks from voice, email, electronic or paper-based requests – from document production requests to reprographics and travel bookings.

BigHand Workflow Management