Law Firm Leaders Discuss Support Team Restructure

Allison O'Reilly, Business Operations Manager at Herrick Feinstein LLP, Josh DeLozier, Workflow Coordinator at Barclay Damon LLP and Heather Johnson, Director of Legal Support Team at Barnes & Thornburg LLP discuss how they have approached restructuring their legal support teams for improved operational efficiency. 

Allison: For the past two-plus years (and we actually timed this in tandem with our rollout of BigHand Workflow Management), we moved our practice assistants into a team structure. We still maintain the traditional one-on-one relationship for our partners and most of our counsel, but all our other attorneys, associates, paralegals, some of our counsel, some fully remote attorneys are assigned to team support, so they no longer have a dedicated assistant. It's been great. 

We also introduced an Administrative Resource Center. We call them our ARC team and they're comprised of junior admin assistants. They do a wide range of things - they handle the traditional front desk responsibilities and provide admin support to all our different support departments of the firms. You name it, they do it! They also provide backup support to our PAs and our attorneys. It's been an evolution, and we're still going. It’s been a big change over the last two-plus years for us. 

Josh: We’re in a mix of teams by practice areas. We have one that's been rolling for over a year now and they were a group that just made sense. They were already connected very well and regarding the other spot, it's still traditional, but slowly shifting as legal assistants retire or there's opportunity to move groups. We're slowly integrating everybody so they're in a team. Also configuring it so if there are any carveouts, where somebody is not in a team, but they're in a different office, we're making sure that that's situated. 

That’s still an ongoing process but it's always talked about as something that's down the road but slowly we've been configuring that, so, when the time comes, we'll have these department folders. There’s legal assistants and attorneys, and then below that, we have other lower-tier support structures where junior groups that handle lower tier-tasks and they’re our leader development group, and they collect work as a pool with their specific work assigned to them. We also have another set group that handles a different group of tasks. Different groups, different teams besides the traditional attorney, legal assistant sect, we also have smaller pools of teams collecting work from the attorney.  

We have BigHand there to move that process, so the work is being seen and moved to the right people. 

Heather: The younger generation want to have a clearly defined career path and they want developmental opportunities. I think if you can get them out of college, train them up and then give them that path to whatever it might be, it will be really beneficial in the future. 

The way attorneys utilize their LAAs is completely different from 20 years ago, they're more tech savvy. They can type out a brief themselves, they don't need to dictate it and then have you transcribe it. We like our assigned LAAs or practice-based LAAs to be very high level and able to assist with client growth opportunities or very practice-based tasks and project management skills. 

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