Blank Rome has offered voluntary separation packages to its entire legal secretarial pool in an effort to trim its ranks as the firm restructures the way attorneys and support staff work together.
The window for accepting the voluntary buyouts closes Friday, and Blank Rome would not say how many secretaries it was aiming to have accept the offer. Firm Chairman Alan J. Hoffman said he anticipates enough secretaries taking the option so that no layoffs would be necessary.
Several sources in the Philadelphia legal community had reported 30 secretaries were expected to be affected by the restructuring.
"There are no layoffs that have taken place and hopefully none will take place," Hoffman said.
He also noted the changes had nothing to do with the firm's financial performance in 2012. While the firm's official numbers have yet to be reported for last year, Hoffman said Blank Rome had a "pretty spectacular" 2012 with revenue increasing 6.3 percent and profits per equity partner rising about 15 percent.
The reduction in legal secretaries is part of the firm's overall effort to move into a more "efficient and flexible" service delivery model that better represents the fact that its younger attorneys are not utilizing secretaries the way more senior attorneys do.
Hoffman said the firm is creating a three-pronged secretarial support structure that will be up and running in the next few months. Then, by 2015 or 2016, he said, Blank Rome hopes to be in redesigned space that better reflects how many secretaries it has and where they need to be located in the office.
"We have new associates whose use of secretarial support is much different than senior partners who are in their 60s," Hoffman said.
Depending on how well they use technology, senior partners might work with secretaries on a 1-1 or 2-1 ratio, Hoffman said. On the other hand, associates up through year six are not using secretaries to type briefs and are rather doing it themselves, he said. So associates are using secretaries at a rate of six or seven attorneys to every one secretary.
Blending those two needs together, Hoffman said the goal for Blank Rome is to have a 4-1 attorney-to-secretary ratio in 2013.