Big Ideas ALA Executive Director’s Letter

Round-the-Globe Conversations About Change, Chicago-Based Solutions

I recently returned from Melbourne, Australia, where I was invited to lead a strategic planning retreat for the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA). While there, I had the opportunity to meet with legal operations leaders from a number of law firms to learn more about the challenges, changes and opportunities facing the industry in their part of the world.
Oliver Yandle, JD, CAE

Not surprisingly, firms in Australia and Asia are experiencing many of the same issues as those in the Western Hemisphere — client pressures, increased competition and rapidly changing technology were common themes in my conversations. Legal management professionals have never been more essential to law firm success and their roles are growing increasingly more complex.

As this month’s feature article notes, few roles have seen more transformation than that of the legal secretary. Advances in technology, changes in client and attorney needs and process improvements have had significant impacts on the work done by legal secretaries and the skills needed to succeed in the role.

To help navigate this changing environment, ALA has produced a new white paper, “The Changing Role of the Legal Secretary,” which provides insight on how the position has changed and specific advice for managing this critical role.

But legal secretaries aren’t the only ones facing transition. Virtually every legal management position has been affected, and many new roles have been created. One of our most common requests from members is for sample job descriptions, but many that are available are no longer relevant to the current work environment. To address this challenge, ALA is creating a job description toolkit. In addition to sample position descriptions, the toolkit will provide step-by-step instructions for how to develop each role using ALA’s Uniform Process Based Management System (UPBMS) taxonomy.

As the work in law firms changes, determining appropriate compensation levels becomes more challenging. Data collection for the 2018 Compensation and Benefits Survey has begun. Expected to cover more than 50 positions and include data from nearly 1,000 firms throughout the United States, the survey provides the most accurate and detailed compensation and benefit data available. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to contribute your organization’s data. Final results should be available in early September; you can preorder your copy now.

Traveling home from the ALPMA retreat, I was struck by the universality of the challenges and opportunities our two organizations face. And I was reminded of how valuable this network of generous professionals is to the industry. Your willingness to give information, provide support and share insights with one another is unique in business. But it is common to legal management professionals across the globe. Thank you for sharing with us.