It’s easy to attribute this change to a younger, technologically proficient generation entering the workforce. Large organizations see younger professionals and executives as self sufficient, minimizing the perceived need for administrative support. However, 20 years ago professionals and CEOs alike relied on their assistants (then called secretaries) to book their lunch meetings, make travel arrangements, type their letters and essentially keep their day-to day-activities constantly flowing with seamless transition and organization. While software and technology have simplified all of these tasks and many more, there remains enormous value in delegating them to an assistant.
First and foremost, professionals are hired for their knowledge and advice. The same can be said about CEOs who are employed to lead, set strategy and manage their company. To enable such individuals to implement these tasks and do them well, it’s important to eliminate as many unnecessary interruptions and distractions as possible by having those duties performed by an assistant. He or she will ensure a much higher level of concentration on what’s important. Moreover, assistants can do these tasks with greater organization and skill, which is why they are hired in the first place.
Assistants can do these tasks with greater organization and skill, which is why they are hired in the first place
The second compelling reason for the assistant is to give executives the chance to lead a more civilized and balanced life. Perhaps dining with family at home during the week is actually achievable; or, allocating time to recognize staff for its hard work. It’s the executive assistant who would have the best handle on where and when these activities might be possible.
The third and likely most significant reason would be the opportunity to manage more effectively, which should also lead to making more money. In other words, the additional work time achieved by delegating time-management tasks to an executive assistant allows for more time selling services, which more than makes up for the cost of an executive assistant.
In law firms, the search for the “flat” organization has led most firms to have as much as a 3:1 ratio of lawyers to assistants. Now think about a lawyer who generates upwards of $500,000 a year in revenue but is working around the clock in order to do so. Imagine the addition of an assistant that can handle all of the truly “administrative” details, and suddenly the extra time that this creates can be devoted to business development; mentorship of younger lawyers; leadership and thought development; professional development and cross selling of the law firm to its clients. All of this in exchange for the addition of an assistant at a modest cost.
A starting salary for a junior assistant can be $40K. At a revenue model of $500,000, 8% seems like a no-brainer, especially when the odds of that $500,000 becoming a much higher number are substantially enhanced. Similarly, a CEO can now examine growth projects, new strategy making his/her company more profitable and ready for the future. What’s best about this, assistants love what they do and, sadly, their ability to continue what they love is depleting rapidly.
Tania Hamilton, a senior recruiter of administrative talent confirms, “there has been a noticeable decline in the number of assistant positions supporting senior players in law firms.” Her client, Michelle Simard of Krylov & Company (Barristers), describes her legal assistant and law clerk as instrumental in her practices. They book discoveries, submit claims, draft motion records and provide customer service to her clients. She believes an assistant builds a strong practice, and without them a lawyer is depriving his or her practice and its clients of important resources that the management of a file requires.
Before you fall into the modern-day trap of becoming an outright “do-it-yourselfer,” think about whether a helping hand might spur your business development and help you start doing more of what you’re paid to do.
Warren Bongard is co-founder and president of legal recruiting firm ZSA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.