BigLaw firms offering buyouts to secretaries who face 'unforgiving job market'

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Legal secretaries have been hard hit by law firm cutbacks, finding it difficult to recover in an era where lawyers are typing their own legal documents.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports on the “unforgiving job market” for legal secretaries. Their plight was in the news this week when Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced it was cutting about 60 associates and 110 staffers, including about 60 secretaries.

Rather than laying off secretaries, several large firms have recently offered buyouts, the story says. About 30 secretaries took buyouts from Blank Rome when it changed its administrative model this winter, creating teams to work with practice groups. Prior reports said the firm was trying to create a 4-1 ratio of lawyers to secretaries. Above the Law has also covered buyouts, including Crowell & Moring’s offer last month of six months’ pay, taken by 29 secretaries.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with several former legal secretaries encountering a difficult job hunt. Kim Richardson, 55, lost her job with the May collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf, and she’s still looking for a law firm job. “I have been on countless interviews, passed all the tests, I went to agencies—nothing.” She has a part-time job as a marketing assistant at a retirement community, and she has run through all of her retirement savings. Several of her former co-workers are also still looking for jobs.

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