A major survey of law firm management professionals suggests that the ratio of support staff to lawyers needs to be cut. According to the study of 175 practice managers conducted by LexisNexis and the Australian Legal Practice Management Association, more than 40 per cent of respondents say their firm runs on a ratio of 1.5 or more support staff for every lawyer. However, almost half the respondents feel a more appropriate ratio would be one support staff member for every two lawyers. The survey suggests that technology may be the solution to this imbalance, with about one in three respondents arguing that efficiency improvements could be driven by the better use of IT. In the survey, undertaken at an ALPMA Summit in August, only 10 per cent ranked driving down costs at their main challenge. Of more concern were getting efficiency gains and performance improvement.
Two disturbing stories - one from France and the other much closer to home - paint a disturbing picture of employees getting more and more stressed as IT tools such as the ubiquitous BlackBerry encroach on personal lives. From Paris, it has been reported that France Telecom is in the news because 23 workers have committed suicide since the start of last year. The CFO of the company has put much of the blame new technologies that are bombarding workers with emails and contributing to them working around the clock. We cannot afford to rest easy in Australia, with a Lifeline Australia survey revealing that work is the chief culprit behind 90 per cent of people feeling stressed. The impact on the workforce is significant, with productivity likely to fall and prolonged absenteeism almost certain to rise. Signs that employees may be feeling the crunch include:
Allens Arthur Robinson is the first major Australian law firm to implement a Reconciliation Action Plan as it seeks to build relationships and create opportunities for indigenous Australians. In making the announcement recently, Allens chief executive partner Michael Rose commented: "'Though our (RAP) we have committed ourselves to action: action as lawyers who can work to support indigenous rights and indigenous enterprises; action as employers who can play a role in the development of talented people; and action as members of the legal and commercial communities who can build relationships and foster understanding." Allens argues that such plans can play a role in closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The firm joins more than 150 organisations that have an RAP,
A new survey from DBM Consultants' Business Financial Services Monitor indicates that fears within the business sector about the global financial crisis are starting to wane. Of more concern for managers is their ability to attract skilled staff. The nation's largest business survey points to growing confidence, with more than half of the SMEs surveyed believing their revenue will rise over the next 12 months - a substantial rise from earlier surveys. About one in five businesses claim getting good staff is their toughest challenge.
Don't trust them
Law firms in Australia are the most recent target of a Nigerian bank-style scam, with fraudsters targeting money kept in lawyers' trust accounts. Of such concern is the matter that the Law Society of NSW has issued a warning after several firms reported crooked approaches from Asian enterprises seeking their services over supposed debt-collection cases. The dodgy clients call on firms to write debt-collection letters to Australian companies. The ‘'debtor'' then sends a cheque for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the firm, and the ‘'client' asks for an electronic refund minus the firm's fee before the counterfeit cheque has been fully processed. In some cases, the company names are real but the details are false.