Bloomberg Law
Jan. 18, 2017, 11:08 PM

Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Toasts Legal Secretaries

Gabe Friedman

Lawyers often fret about what will happen when intelligent machines are capable of performing their jobs. But automation has already affected some people at law firms — the support staff.

This week in Davos, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith provided a reality check on how much automation technologies have already transformed law firms.

On a panel, entitled “Governing Globalization,” Smith noted that about three decades ago, every administrative assistant worked with two lawyers. Today, every administrative assistant works with about 10 lawyers.

While everything from word processors and emails to cloud storage has enabled this change, Smith noted that it still takes “soft skills” to be a good administrative assistant.

Soft skills refers to those vague set of qualities that we all know about and seek to master, not only interpersonal communication, but things like the ability to work collaboratively, to adapt to a new set of demands, and to solve problems on the fly.

Smith noted that while machines still aren’t good at soft skills, “You better believe that the secretaries that are successful today are much stronger in those soft skills.”

Watch the video below, courtesy of Quartz , to see Smith talk about this.