LESS IS MORE - Law firm staffs may be shrinking, but staffing costs are still heading in the opposite direction, Law.com’s Andrew Maloney reports. An overwhelming majority of respondents to a new survey by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group said they expect the number of secretaries to continue decreasing. About 83% projected a decrease in legal secretaries in 2022 relative to 2020. However, roughly two-thirds of those surveyed projected growth in pricing specialists (68%), business development/marketing professionals (65%) and technology staff (63%). They also expected growth in project managers and billing and collections teams. And none of those roles come cheap. “This means that even for firms planning to reduce their overall professional staff leverage, they are likely to see an increase in the overall cost of professional staff,” the (also recently released) 2022 Citi Hildebrandt Client Advisory found.

CONFLICT CREWS - Another administrative function that has seen significant “upskilling” recently is in the realm of client conflict checks. The old system of making partners ultimately responsible for spotting conflicts was not exactly foolproof. And as law firms have gotten bigger and more complex over the years, that top-down approach has become even less advisable. With that in mind, more firms are bringing in professional analysts to perform conflict checks, new research from legal tech company Intapp suggests. Like many staff roles in the legal industry, those responsible for conflicts analysis are evolving into a specialized team of professionals, often with four-year degrees or J.D.s, rather than clerical personnel serving at the discretion of practice partners, according to survey authors. “We’re stepping away from an administrative view of that role and talking more substantively about bringing legally trained folks in, whether that’s folks who are certified paralegals or whether that’s lawyers,” Makaylia Roberts Binkley, director of risk consulting for Intapp and former director of risk management for Ballard Spahr, told Law.com’s Justin Henry.