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Legal Industry Sheds Secretaries
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Several prominent and successful law firms across the country are reducing the size of their secretarial staff. This trend is related to the financial trouble facing the legal industry as a whole, but is also indicative of new ways of doing business for law firms in the 21st century.

Above the Law reports that two leading law firms have urged many of their legal secretaries to accept “early retirement packages” in order to prevent large-scale layoffs. One of these firms, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, reportedly told ten of their legal secretaries to accept the retirement packages earlier this week, and that this comes after headcount reductions in November and February.


Sullivan & Cromwell is also attempting to reduce the size of its secretarial staff using similar types of buyouts.

Above the Law contacted Kramer Levin and Sullivan & Cromwell to discuss the reports of secretarial layoffs.

“On Wednesday, we did offer a voluntary separation package to a number of secretaries,” said a spokesperson for Kramer Levin. “We did so, because, like many law firms, our need for secretaries has been substantially reduced as a result of technology and the work style of our attorneys, who themselves perform a number of functions previously handled by secretaries.”

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A spokesperson for Sullivan & Cromwell also confirmed their layoffs, telling Above the Law, “S&C regularly reviews its non-legal staffing levels, in light of technological and other operational changes, to remain competitive. As a result of the latest such review in March, we made voluntary early retirement incentive offers to some staff. Several staff members accepted this offer, and we have received a lot of positive feedback remarking on its voluntary nature and the generosity of the incentives.”

These layoffs are partly a symptom of the rough economic climate facing every company both inside and outside of the legal industry. With less money moving around in general, many large law firms have struggled to increase profits, and many have been reducing staff, sparingly offering promotions, and declining to hire new attorneys. These layoffs may help keep some of these firms in the black.

Additionally, the way that law is practiced is changing. As technology improves and traditional legal roles evolve, the need for certain skills and even entire positions is likely to ebb and flow. The occupation of legal secretary may not be a common one in twenty years, but then again, the same could be said for virtually any type of job.


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