Restructuring Legal Support Teams to Enhance Client Services: How Larkin Hoffman Successfully Automated Workflow Management with BigHand

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

Strong legal client relationships today are increasingly built on cost-efficient and transparent services, as BigHand’s 2023 Support Services Redesign research highlighted. For law firms, this includes enhancing operational efficiency that leads to marginal gains in their working practices that will protect profits. But despite hybrid working adding yet further complexity into existing workflows, manual delegation, processes, and reporting remain prevalent. Indeed, the BigHand research found that 83% of lawyers are still delegating tasks manually and 50% of firms are relying on manual reporting to track the volume and type of tasks.

Support structures must continue to evolve, with more centralized and specialized teams backed up by robust workflow technologies with enhanced reporting and analytics to drive decision-making.

One U.S. law firm embracing change is Larkin Hoffman. Brenda Greenhalgh, the firm’s Legal Administrative Support Manager, explains how Larkin Hoffman has restructured its support teams and successfully introduced BigHand Workflow Management to improve workload visibility, increase efficiency, and elevate the client experience.

Strengthening the foundations of teamwork

Larkin Hoffman is a legal firm based in Minneapolis, which provides counsel across many areas of practice to a wide variety of organizations. Brenda Greenhalgh was appointed Legal Administrative Support Manager at Larkin Hoffman in 2020 after more than 15 years as a Legal Administrative Assistant (LAA) with the company.

On addressing the challenges at the time, Brenda reflects: “It was quickly evident to me that we needed a new way of organizing, keeping track of, and routing requests for administrative tasks. We were already reorganizing our support structure and we wanted to accelerate the changes we were making to ensure colleagues could work effectively together while they were at home.”

Transforming support structures

Brenda explains the goal for the new team project: “We wanted to add an additional layer of support within our teams of legal administrative assistants, paralegals, and attorneys.”

Legal administrative support specialists at Larkin Hoffman can fulfill the role of an LAA, but the difference is they have no assigned timekeepers. This means if an LAA is going on vacation, for example, or they are unexpectedly unavailable, a legal administrative support specialist can stand in and assist the attorney the LAA is usually assigned to.

But the firm wanted to take this one step further. “The expectation is that legal administrative support specialists can support anybody in the company with whatever they need,” says Brenda. “By this time, we were already considering workflow management solutions to support hybrid working. We also wanted a solution we could use to identify tasks that were common to all LAAs so that we could begin assigning them routinely to the new administrative support team.”

Larkin Hoffman selected BigHand’s Workflow Management solution after a recommendation from a consultant and guest speaker on a webinar that Brenda attended.

“We were already using BigHand’s dictation solution, so implementing Workflow Management was a natural next step. We had only had positive experiences with BigHand,” says Brenda. “So, we got in touch, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Best practices for adoption

 When it comes to introducing new technologies and ways of working, change management is always a challenge. For Larkin Hoffman, this was two-fold: introducing a new team structure and rolling out a new method of task delegation.

 “For one thing, it’s just not in the nature of an LAA to let go of tasks and to delegate them elsewhere,” says Brenda. “We needed to ensure LAA’s felt empowered and supported by the administrative support team, and we also wanted to encourage them to provide direction and training.

“Likewise, we have four generations of attorneys at the office, with varying degrees of enthusiasm for adopting a new way of working. Some of our attorneys have worked in pretty much the same way for 40 years or more and had very little interest in that changing. Some of our younger associates, on the other hand, and those who might have felt lower down the pecking order when it came to asking for administrative assistance, fully embraced the idea of an automated system.”

To encourage the adoption of Workflow Management, Larkin Hoffman regularly consulted with BigHand and implemented the following strategies:

  1. Setting realistic expectations. It is only mandatory to add a task to BigHand if it cannot be completed immediately. This ensures the task can be picked up by another member of the team in a timely manner and prevents tasks from falling through the cracks, while not spending time filling out forms unnecessarily.
  2. Enabling LAAs to help attorneys. Knowing that some attorneys need longer to adopt new practices than others, they can enlist the help of LAAs to submit a task on their behalf.
  3. Introducing an email gateway. Attorneys are invited to email information to a dedicated address, where tasks are triaged and then added to Workflow Management on their behalf.
  4. Appointing LAA Team Coordinators. The Team Coordinator is responsible for monitoring their team’s dedicated folder in BigHand Workflow Management to ensure everything is completed. This provides extra assurance to attorneys that the new process is effective and worthwhile.
  5. Creating customized forms. To ensure the process is as streamlined as possible, forms are customized to capture the essential information from attorneys depending on their area of practice.

Center of Excellence

 Since implementing the BigHand solution, and as a result of the change management strategies implemented to encourage adoption, Larkin Hoffman has achieved greater visibility over tasks and workloads. Tasks are allocated more fairly and completed in the most efficient manner, resulting in a significantly greater throughput. Indeed, as of October 2023, over 3,300 additional tasks had been processed year-to-date via BigHand compared to the total number of tasks completed in 2021.

Our teams are now confident that help is available if they feel overwhelmed,” says Brenda. “LAAs know if they have a large project or one with a very tight deadline, they can use Workflow Management to enlist help. This in itself has improved team morale, but there’s also that reassurance that when they go on vacation, or they're off sick, their timekeepers will be taken care of.”

Larkin Hoffman has also used the solution to tailor several workflows so that, depending on the task, it is routed to the LAA who is most experienced and qualified to complete it, so much so that paralegals and first-year associates new to the firm are no longer assigned to a specific LAA. In addition, insights from the solution have unlocked new opportunities to share knowledge and further improve client services. The firm has adopted a Center of Excellence model to establish such workflows and to encourage knowledge sharing amongst the teams.

“We have used the solution to identify those people who are most skilled in each area and can help others in the team who would like to improve their skills,” says Brenda. In addition, the output reports from BigHand have given Brenda and Larkin Hoffman’s management team greater visibility of key metrics, including work type, volume, capacity and utilization – all of which are helping to inform productivity and resourcing decision-making.

“Thanks to BigHand, we have been able to start raising our ratio of attorneys per LAA,” she adds. “When we started our team initiative, our ratio was 3.58 attorneys per LAA. That is now 4.28. It may seem only a marginal gain, but administrative cost-wise, it is huge.”

Brenda says her next focus is to develop a team of LAAs assigned to collections actions. “We have one associate who handles our collections actions and often, when the associate becomes a shareholder, that responsibility passes to another associate and therefore LAA.

“We want to use BigHand Workflow Management to identify and manage a team of LAAs who would like to help with this and have the availability to do so. That way, we can provide training to the whole team and – something that sits at the heart of our team restructure – ensure distribution of workload that is fair, informed, and efficient.”


 The need for cost-effective legal service delivery is rising, impacting client relationships and profitability within law firms. To overcome these challenges, the right operational structure of teams, processes, and technology is key.

“BigHand is an essential part of our structure now,” concludes Brenda. “The data visibility we now have is helping us to identify new ways to optimize our team structure, while the technology and the expertise of the BigHand team are enabling new workflows so that we can ensure excellent service for all our clients.”

Author image
Brenda Greenhalgh
Legal Administrative Support Manager, Larkin Hoffman

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 optimized, 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