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Any legal secretaries working PT supporting FT fee earners?

(15 Posts)
fridayschild Mon 07-Sep-09 11:05:40

My secretary would like to come back to work 2 days a week when her maternity leave ends. She's a great secretary and I'd like to keep her. The FT workload is one partner, one assistant, one trainee. I'm not sure how we would cover her workload the other days, though - no one obvious to job-share with, rest of the team fairly busy, and I don't think I'll be able to recruit for the other 3 days. Does anyone have experience that would help make this work?

LSEE Mon 07-Sep-09 18:10:07

I've had experience of two job-shares with my secretaries over the years, none of trying to make PT sec working without jobshare though, what would her fee-earners do on the days she wasn't working? I have this occasionally at the moment when one of my job share secs is on holiday and we can't get float cover and it's a bit of a nightmare cos everyone leaves all their work for the days when the other job share is in, reaulting in her being ridiculously busy and not being able to manage the work that comes in when she's there.....having said that a one partner, one assistant, one trainee allocation is pretty light maybe it would work?

flowerybeanbag Mon 07-Sep-09 19:51:58

Do you really think you'd be unable to recruit someone 3 days a week? I wouldn't have thought that would be too difficult at the moment given the number of law firms making redundancies particularly among support staff at the moment?

DH has had job sharing secretaries before which I think worked reasonably well. It's difficult to imagine it working without a job share though and without spare capacity elsewhere.

CantThinkofFunnyName Mon 07-Sep-09 19:55:46

Agree with flowerybeanbag. I think secretaries, particularly those returning to work after maternity leave or children starting school, would jump at the chance of 3 days per week job share.

Bink Mon 07-Sep-09 19:59:53

Masses of secretaries do it where I work (City firm) - it is so entirely normal ("I have Marie on Monday and Tuesday and then Helen the rest of the week"). If 'Helen' actually wants a FT job then she is on the float team for Monday & Tuesday - seems to work perfectly well. How is your firm at running a float team, though? - that may be a fundamental.

expatinscotland Mon 07-Sep-09 20:08:22

i only worked FT as legal secretary, my last job was support for one partner, two assistants, 2 trainees, but the firm also had a number sof job-share PTs.

i agree it needs to be a jobshare ideally.

our float team was really good BUT of course there's always those quirky things and idiosyncrasies that partners like done that floats can be unaware of in a really large firm, although with a really good team a lot of times they'll all have worked for every one of the partners enough to know or remember.

expatinscotland Mon 07-Sep-09 20:12:28

the most common problem i had with fee-earners who had PT secretaries who weren't on jobshare, meaning they had to rely on float teams, is that they have the annoying habit of approaching their colleague's secretary (that'll be me, thank you!) to do certain work.

or float team people interrupting the FT secs, sometimes at inopportune times (like when i'm trying to listen to my partner dictate whilst she's on a train).

ah, the joys of legal secretary work!

wink

fridayschild Tue 08-Sep-09 21:45:08

Thank and sorry if I wasn't clear. I won't get budget to look for someone who would like to work 3 days a week to make up a job share at the moment. Where there is an obvious cost cut, I'll have to make it if we can manage. I agree, if I was allowed to look I'm sure I could find someone! And when work picks up again I will be looking.

It is what the fee earners would do on the other days that I am wrestling with.

What do you think about the secretary just having one person to work for on her 2 days, dealing with a week's worth of e mail in box and filing on those days plus the tapes produced on those days, and on the other 3 days that fee earner is looked after (typing and messages) by someone else?

We have a fee earner going on maternity leave so her secretary could take over the other qualified lawyer.

We have 2 floats. The FT one is brilliant, constantly booked out. The PT one is, erm, less brilliant. Relying on her would bring about precisely the issues Expat mentions!

expatinscotland Tue 08-Sep-09 22:11:44

that could work but it would depend a lot on what kind of practice you're in.

the chief problem i can see is that if there's a heavy tape/dictation day or week.

then there's this backlog of emails and filing for the float.

is the employee willing to do overtime on her two days or work from home in case of a busy time? can this be set up - the work from home scenario.

what's going to happen wrt to the filing when there's A LOT of dictation or emails, like an usual amount?

this would also need a lot of clarification of duties from the partner to her assistant and trainee as to what they can rely on the secretary for when she's in, otherwise you're going to get a secretary approached by the assistant, who works for you, the partner, with work and there could be some priority issues.

now i don't know about your sec but i liked to keep the amount of times i interrupted my partner(s) to a minimum, but was fortunate most of the time not to have to waste my partner's time as much because he/she had clearly advised my other supervisors about my priorities wrt to work.

the situation you most want to avoid is having to bring a temp in, tbh.

expatinscotland Tue 08-Sep-09 22:15:47

and yes, i have worked as a temp legal secretary as well.

regardless of how good they are, and most are quite good or they don't keep getting work, it's easy for things to get missed when a temp comes in and there's always a bit of a learning curve which does cost time.

what about time keeping? who is looking after this?

fridayschild Wed 09-Sep-09 13:45:21

There won't be a temp.

What do you mean about time keeping? We are an open plan office and no one gets into or out of the department without walking past my desk grin

racmac Wed 09-Sep-09 16:02:19

Cant the trainee take up a bit of the typing - i certainly did all my own typing as a trainee - its good idea for them to know exactly what the Secretaries have to do.

Found quite a few newly qualifieds and trainees almost look at it as an easy/below them job - good practice!

What would you do about urgent stuff that needs dealing with?

TheHappyCat Thu 10-Sep-09 21:10:33

I cannot believe your work allocation! After a lot of cost cutting/reorg, our secretaries (MC firm) work for about 8 fee-earners of whom around two are partners and at least one more a senior. (That said, we do have word processing specialists for amending longer documents, and people do a lot of own typing, particularly the juniors in fact). Nobody dictates these days any more... do they?
Could you take her for the two days and share someone else's secretary for the other 3? Or offer 3 as a compromise and share for the 2?

fridayschild Sat 12-Sep-09 07:37:34

Yes I think sec for 2 days and sharing someone else's for the other 3 is how we will start off. Thanks for all the advice people.

RibenaBerry Sat 12-Sep-09 18:29:16

Happy Cat -I think it depends on the firm and the area of practice. It's true that our corporate and banking guys don't dictate a lot, but in my area (employment)of my city firm we most certainly do. That secretarial ratio would lead me to a breakdown in days!

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