Are Legal Secretaries Becoming Extinct?

In his January 8, 2011 guest editorial “Viewpoints: Many jobs gone forever despite onset of recovery” for The Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles attorney Darry Sragow posits that “many of the jobs lost in the Great Recession are never coming back,” including the position of legal secretary:

…Once upon a time, every lawyer in a big law firm had a secretary. Then, as technology advanced and the scope of the job description narrowed to exclude picking up the cleaning and getting coffee for the boss, the standard became one legal secretary for every two attorneys. Today, the standard in large firms is one legal secretary for every four attorneys. And those large, word-processing centers that employed sometimes dozens of typists in the offices of large law firms? They are either gone or centralized off-site where the labor costs are lower.

Are legal secretaries a dying breed, morphing into administrative assistants, legal assistants (the new middle tier between legal secretaries and paralegals in many firms) and paralegals? As a former legal secretary myself, I know the job has changed greatly since the mid 80s, when a good part of my day was spent transcribing audiocassettes. Today’s attorneys have more than adequate keyboard skills – or voice recognition software like DragonDictate installed on their computers. 
 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for secretaries and administrative assistants “is projected to grow about as fast as the average” – as opposed to the 28% increase in employment opportunities predicted for paralegals through 2018. The BLS is specific about who will qualify for secretarial and administrative positions, stating, “Opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of computer software applications.”
What’s the reality in your firm and/or area of the country? Is the position becoming stagnate – or being eliminated altogether? Do you think a day will come when legal secretaries go the way of the dinosaurs?

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