Last week, we attended the Association of Legal Administrator's 39th Annual Educational Conference & Exposition in Boston and judging by conference attendance, which was up approximately 40% to 1,300+ from 2009, the event was yet another indicator that the worst of the latest economic recession is behind us. In addition to the ideally located convention space (with close proximity to literally 100s of shops, restaurants and watering holes), the choice of Boston as host city attracted many for additional client networking and meeting opportunities.
The ALA show is like no other (except for maybe the ABA Annual) in our legal technology space because it offers much more than "just" technology solutions. Case in point, of the 192 exhibitors in Boston (vs. 186 in 2009), only 75 vendors (less than 40%) sold legal technology software/hardware/consulting services. Over 60% of the booths touted anything and everything involved with day-to-day law firm administration and office management ranging from architectural services to insurance products, office supplies, staffing providers and translation services.
This broad mix might surprise some, especially those unfamiliar with the expansive list of job duties handled by your 'typical' legal administrator (often also referred to as office manager, director of administration, executive director, office administrator or chief administrative officer).In connection with the ALA Annual, we though it fitting to further 'de-mystify' the legal administrator and explain what they care about, how they perceive technology and why they attend the annual conference. Some exhibitors have even argued that legal administrators are not the right audience for legal technology vendors since they only care about IT 'a little bit'. We decided to ask a few administrators and see if this is true:
IL: What are your daily job duties as an legal administrator...
Joan Wean - Legal Administrator, Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin, PC: I am responsible for the day-to-day administrative and personnel operations of HRMM&L, working directly with the Managing Partner. I assist in the development of operating policies and evaluation of growth opportunities within the firm and am involved in recommending a multitude of firm purchases ranging from liability insurance to office furniture. I have spent the last 18 years at the firm and currently support all 75 users including 30 attorneys.
Glenda Raley - Cincinnati Office Administrator, Ulmer & Berne LLP: I am one of four administrators (reporting to the firm's executive director) supporting 175 attorneys across four offices in Ohio and Illinois. I truly do a little bit of everything and must be well versed in new technologies, new HR policies and the latest insurance options, just to name a few.
John S. Kirk - Director of Administration (& Chair of ALA Vendor Relations Committee) Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox LLP: We wear many hats and juggle lots of responsibilities. In my case, there's roughly a 25% time split for HR, IT, Finance, and facilities management and general admin. Educating myself on new trends, new technologies, and policies is paramount to performing my job.
IL: What role do you play in the technology purchasing process? How important is technology to you as an administrator?
Joan Wean: Technology obviously plays a critical role in our firm but as far as day-to-day technology goes we rely on mindSHIFT for everything. They do it all in terms of IT services and hosting as well.
Glenda Raley: My biggest role in technology purchasing is that of end-user champion. I listen to what our users want and what they need to serve our clients and then communicate this to the appropriate decision makers and influencers. In terms of decision making, I make technology recommendations (again based on user feedback and what I see at shows like ALA) and take them to the firm's Executive Director.
John S. Kirk: Technology is no longer just a tool but touches on all facets of my daily firm work. I am constantly reaching out to vendors and educating myself on new tools and systems that will make our firm's operation more efficient and productive.
IL: Why did you attend the 2010 Annual ALA Conference & Expo?
Joan Wean: I look forward to the educational sessions and the business partner interaction during exhibit hall hours.
Glenda Raley: I attend the annual conference to scope out new trends, network with peers, and spend time visiting vendors at the exhibit hall.
John S. Kirk: Education is as important as networking with peers and vendor partners. As chair of the vendor relations committee, I appreciate the partnering and interaction that takes place at conference between our members and business partners.
This concludes our much too short dialog with these legal administrators, but hopefully paves the way for many more conversations. We'd love to hear from legal administrators about their roles.