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Amy's assignment


Amy is a first-year Management student. The main assignment in the subject is a case study on a firm of solicitors: Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless.

Assignment topic:

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  1. Look at the lecturer's expectations of the assignment.
  2. Next read Amy's assignment.
    • How well do you think the assignment responds to the topic?
    • Do you think the assignment could be improved in any way?
  3. Now read the lecturer's comments about Amy's assignment.
  4. Finally, listen to Amy talk about how she wrote her assignment and read feedback about how to overcome the difficulties she faced.

Assignment Questions


Semester One, 1996


Using the Case Study Method analyse the problems, generate solutions and make recommendations for the following case.

DUE DATE: Tutorial, Week 11, Week Beginning May 20, 1996

Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless, Solicitors

Peter Lawless looked over his desk at Arthur Lawton and frowned. "Look, Arthur, I need a new secretary now. I thought the idea of the Word Processing Centre was, that we recruited talented people and trained them there, so they were ready and available when we need them. We spend a lot of money on the Centre and I hear on the grapevine that the work is often sub standard, and now you're telling me that there is no one there really qualified to be my new secretary. What's going wrong! I have had Kathleen Pearce temporarily for the past two weeks, but if she is the best qualified person in the Centre, then it's not doing the job. Her skills are fine, but she has no initiative and doesn't have much of a clue about what we do in this firm - and she has worked here for 18 months! She is a nice girl, but she is not up to it."

Arthur Lawton sighed. "Obviously something is not working. We do recruit well trained, bright, young people and hope that one to two years in the WPC will teach them all they need to know about our firm, and I believe Kathleen Pearce is the best qualified there. I am afraid you will have to persevere with Kathleen. There's nobody else."

Arthur Lawton and Peter Lawless are senior partners in the legal firm of Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless. Arthur is also the Managing Partner responsible for handling the administration of the large firm which consists of 25 partners and 48 employed solicitors, plus approximately 80 support staff working in the Sydney office.

Twenty two of the support staff are data entry clerks who work in the Word Processing Centre. Their job is to word process the large volumes of legal documents produced by the solicitors, together with their long reports, etc. Only well qualified people are employed, usually with a TAFE diploma or Year 12 with good passes in business subjects. When they join the firm they receive a week of training in the specialised legal documents and extra training sessions are held regularly to ensure up to date knowledge of legal documents.

The firm occupies 10 floors of a new building in the centre of Sydney. The Word Processing Centre is located on the 35th floor and has wonderful views around the city and harbour. The office is very well equipped with modern, ergonomic furniture and equipment, excellent furnishings, and a very pleasant staff room. The firm is able to attract good quality workers because it offers above average wages and many benefits such as a superannuation scheme, health scheme, social club and other non salary benefits.

After his discussion with Peter Lawless, the Managing Partner, Mr Lawton, feels it is time to find out why the centre is having problems, so he asks around the firm, having talks with other partners and solicitors. He discovers that, although the centre is very productive, there are several concerns. Most solicitors feel they must check each piece of work carefully because there are often errors made. Not necessarily typing errors, but careless errors such as the wrong names or facts keyed into documents. As the clerks are well qualified and trained by the firm, there is a belief that the error rate is unacceptable. None of the solicitors know the workers in the Centre very well, but all praise the hard work and service provided by Mrs Blakely, the supervisor, and suggest that there is something wrong "with young people today". Mr Lawton's personnel records also suggest that the turnover rate in the centre is also unacceptable. Only three clerks in the Centre have worked for the firm for more than eighteen months, with the majority staying only 12 months or so, despite careful selection of excellent staff.

The partners of the firm each have their own secretary, and it is the firm's policy that these secretaries be recruited from the Word Processing Centre workers. Three to five of these vacancies arise each year, with workers from the Centre also relieving when the secretaries are on holidays. Although this opportunity for promotion attracts new workers to the firm, it does not seem to keep many of them long enough to take up the chance. There have also been complaints that, when a clerk has been used as a relief for a secretary, they have proved unreliable if left to their own devices and they lacked initiative.

Mr Lawton then talks with Mrs Lorraine Blakely, the supervisor, about the Centre. She has worked with the firm in various administrative capacities for over 20 years and is greatly liked and admired by all the partners and lawyers in the firm. They found her very pleasant and helpful to deal with and always efficient in getting their work through the centre in a short time. She enjoys her job, particularly dealing with the solicitors in the firm, most of whom have worked with her for years. They believe that she is very efficient and they all like to deal with her on a regular basis.

Mrs Blakely reacts a little angrily when Mr Lawton brings up the matter of the WPC's problems. She springs to the defence of her "girls", saying that although there are errors made, they do get through a lot of work. She does admit that, she believes not many of the clerks like their job very much as they find it boring, as most of the work is simply keying in information into the forms provided on the firm's computer network. She finds that they will come late to work, chat with each other at every opportunity, take long breaks and generally "slack off". To stop this she keeps a firm eye on them, but on the other hand, she tells him, you can't be too hard on them or they will leave quickly, and it is very hard to get good people to stay long. She insists that she must keep her "girls" happy if they are to be productive and stay with the firm, and she doesn't know what to do to keep them with the firm longer or help them to be better secretaries. She states that the trouble is that young people these days don't want to work, but just want to have fun and there is nothing that she can do about that.

Mrs Blakely explains the WPC's system to him. The work to be done in the Centre arrives from each solicitor with a request sheet with details of what is required. Mrs Blakely then allocates work to the clerks each day. To ensure they know what to do she is in the habit of going over each piece of work with them before they do the job. There is often a need to clarify some issue with the solicitor. When this is the case, Mrs Blakely goes to the solicitor herself and then passes the information on to the clerks. She collects the output when the clerks have finished and returns it to the solicitors.

She emphasises again to Mr Lawton that she does keep a stern eye on the workers to ensure that they are not wasting time. She insists that tea and lunch break times are strictly adhered to, and discourages chatting during working hours, although as her job means she must be liaising with solicitors on other floors, she is not in the Centre quite a lot. She agrees that the workers do not do very well when they relieve a secretary, but feels it is all so strange to them, much more complex work than they have been used to, but her staff are the best available, and the solicitors just need to put a bit of effort into helping them to learn the job. She says the solicitors do not help their new secretaries enough and expect them to know everything straight away. She suggests to Mr Lawton that she could check every piece of work before it leaves the centre, though this would slow the turnaround time considerably.

When questioned about their job the clerks say they like working for the firm, would like to earn promotion, but find it hard to stay interested in a job that is so repetitious and boring. Most say they get sick of seeing the same faces every day as they are isolated in the WPC on the 35th Floor and have no contact with anyone apart from each other and Mrs Blakely. Peter Lawless's temporary secretary, Kathleen Pearce, who is the longest serving clerk, tells Mr Lawton that, although she loves working with so many people her own age, and Mrs Blakely is a lovely boss, always friendly and helpful, she feels like she is still in school, with someone always watching what you are doing and telling her what to do. She has stayed with the firm because the conditions are good and she hopes to achieve promotion. She does, however, express doubts about her ability as "eighteen months of straight keying have made me forget most of what I learned in TAFE and I don't seem to have learnt much about what the solicitors do working in the WPC".

Mr Lawton decides to install a piped music system, believing this will add interest to their day's work and aid concentration. The workers are very pleased with this and even say that it speeds up their work. Unfortunately six months later the error rate has even increased, the turnover is still high, and Kathleen Pearce, after six months as secretary to Peter Lawless is just beginning to show more confidence and initiative in her job. Although Peter is happy with her now, he feels he has wasted a lot of time and energy in helping her settle into the job and he tells Arthur Lawton that he believes the problems with the WPC would not be solved by the piped music.

Mr Lawton has approached you, an external management consulting firm, to help them identify the real problems, to suggest some possible solutions and make recommendations. Your brief is to examine and analyse the case material and to produce a report, based on the problem solving case method, for Mr Lawton.

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