Starting in the early 1990s, I noticed that secretarial work was changing as a result of widespread lawyer use of PCs. Yet I have seen few articles about this much less smart management reaction.

Already in 1991, I thought secretarial roles needed re-thinking. By 2003, when the main reaction seemed to be tinkering with the ratio, I wrote The Future of Legal Secretaries (Legal Times, May 2003). It suggests testing the concept of secretarial teams.

That article emphasizes matching needs and resources more effectively. Today, law firms have a new option to do so and, at the same time, recast the role of the legal secretary. Earlier this year CBF, a secretarial and document processing outsourcing company, retained me to write a white paper. In it, I explain why outsourcing some secretarial and document processing tasks makes sense. The reasoning applies to many law firm operations.

It’s a mistake to assume that full-time secretaries (plus temps) is the best decision. Outsourcing may be wrong – but decide that consciously, not by inertia.

The issues here affect CIOs two ways. First, if firms do outsource as suggested, that will affect training and systems. And second, the underlying reasoning may drive you to outsource some tech functions.

The chart below illustrates how outsourcing could change secretarial roles. This change and forming teams are not mutually exclusive. In fact, outsourcing can support a team approach.