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Firms overspending on support staff
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Firms overspending on support staff

There is a worrying discrepancy between the current and optimal levels of law firms' support staff, a new survey has revealed.

THERE is a worrying discrepancy between the current and optimal levels of law firms' support staff, a new survey has revealed. 

A survey of 175 practice managers has revealed a massive gap between firms' ideal levels of support staff and the number they actually employ. 

The survey, conducted by LexisNexis and The Australian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) has highlighted the gap. 

It showed that more than 40 per cent of practice managers believe their current leverage ratio is 1.5 support staff for more per lawyer. The ideal, they believed, was one support person per one or two lawyer, legal news magazine Australasian Legal Business reports. 

Firms' bottom lines are suffering as a result, the survey showed. It highlighted a need for improved efficiency and more comprehensive practice management, ALB reports. It also revealed that practice managers do not see cost reduction as a current business priority. 

According to the survey, practice managers prefer to focus on improving efficiency and performance of their processes over cost reduction. 

Just 10 per cent of respondents ranked driving down costs as their most pressing challenge, compared to 30 per cent who named improved efficiency as the top priority. 

ALB quoted TJ Viljoen, CEO of LexisNexis Pacific, who said: "With clients demanding efficiency and better performance, we can expect to see a transformation in the way that the legal word operates. It is often said that when one door closes another one opens, and this is never truer of a law firm [than] in an economic downturn."

The LexisNexis chief said the disparity between the optimal number of support staff and lawyers working together in firms, compared to the true figures, is a concern.

"Practice management is an essential part of each and every law firm, and we should be ensuring that each firm has the correct balance of staff to maximise its impact."

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