There’s little surprise at Legal IT Insider Towers that investment in better workflow technology and document production facilities is at the heart of a move by Pinsent Masons to axe up to 100 secretaries from its UK workforce, with the top 100 global firm having launched a consultation that is due to end in November.
According to Roll on Friday, which first revealed the redundancy consultation, Pinsents plans to use a centralised typing and pool and its “outsourced resource” in South Africa. For around a decade Pinsents has been working with South African legal process outsourcer Exigent, which back in 2009 launched a litigation support service provided from Exigent’s LPO centre in Cape Town.
In a statement Pinsents said: “Our vision is to be an international market leader in our global sectors, and to do that we need to ensure our people have first-class support and infrastructure. Over the past year Pinsent Masons has invested significantly in technology and other resources to achieve this as efficiently as possible. One of the consequences of this is that our resourcing levels among PA staff and the needs of the business are no longer aligned. For that reason we will be entering into a consultation with our PA team. While it is hard to be precise about the outcome of the consultation at this point, we have not ruled out the reallocation of resource or redundancy of some roles. We will do everything possible to support those impacted during what we recognise is an unsettling time.”
This is what we wrote about the impact of Exigent on secretarial ratios in September 2009:
“Although the Insider has long been an advocate of more outsourcing (in all its various forms) within law firms, it now seems the concept is finally getting the traction it merits. The latest firm to begin outsourcing is Eversheds, which is expected to shed 95 secretarial jobs in the UK as it transfers document processing tasks to Exigent’s LPO centre in Cape Town. The move follows a pilot at the firm’s Cambridge office which revealed it was possible to achieve a fee-earner-to-secretary ratio of 6-to-1. The firm currently has a 3.4-to-1 ratio and anticipates that once the outsourcing project has been implemented, ratios will average 5-to-1. In July the Insider reported that Pinsent Masons was also outsourcing to Exigent – we understand that firm is now running a fee-earner to secretary ratio of 4.5-to-1. Exigent told the Insider the last few months had seen a “massive momentum” build up in favour of outsourcing, with two more orders in the pipeline and set to go public before Christmas, and negotiations now underway with both other UK and global law firms.”
Pinsents still operates a secretary ratio of 4.5-to-1 compared to an industry norm of around 6-to-1.