Voluntary separation packages have been offered to the entire legal secretary pool at Blank Rome, according to The Legal Intelligencer. The packages have been offered in the hopes that the firm can trim its employee ranks in the midst of restructuring how attorneys and support employees work with each other.
Those who have been offered the voluntary buyouts have until Friday to accept and the firm did not provide a number of secretaries that it hopes would accept the buyouts. Alan J. Hoffman, the firm’s chairman, said that he thinks enough secretaries will take the option to prevent layoffs.
“There are no layoffs that have taken place and hopefully none will take place,” Hoffman said, who also mentioned that the changes did not come about because of the firm’s financial performance in the past year.
The firm wants to move into a more “efficient and flexible” delivery model. The model shows that the firm’s younger attorneys are not using secretaries much like senior attorneys use them. The firm will operate a three-pronged secretarial support structure that will begin operating over the coming months. By 2015 or 2016, the firm hopes to be operating in redesigned space that has the correct amount of secretaries and located properly in the office.
“We have new associates whose use of secretarial support is much different than senior partners who are in their 60s,” Hoffman said. He also noted that he hopes the firm has an attorney-to-secretary ratio of 4-1 in 2013.
The firm has created an Associate Resource Center, ARC, that should begin operating in the coming months. It will have 12 secretaries and will operate in Philadelphia. The ARC will be for the secretaries who are working for attorneys who do not utilize their services often.
“Lawyers are supposed to lawyer as opposed to doing secretarial functions,” Hoffman said. “Going forward, why does a first-year associate … why do they need a secretary that’s directly outside their office?”
Allison V. Friend, the firm’s Chief Human Resources Officer, said the following in a statement: “We recognize and truly value the contributions that all of our secretaries have made to the firm, and are committed to working closely with each and every one of them to evaluate their options and help them make a smooth transition, whether it be an internal or external move.”
In 2009, the firm issued two rounds of layoffs, both of which affected attorneys and staff members. In January of that year, 20 associates and 40 staff members were let go across all of the firm’s offices. In March of the same year, 27 associates and 52 staffers were let go across all of the offices.