Legal outsourcing was definitely one of the buzzwords heard during the ALPMA Summit 2016 “A Blueprint for Change” as one of the strategies for change to move a firm into the future. However in my experience, outsourcing legal work (offshoring) still remains a new concept to most firms, with partners and practice managers struggling to know where to begin and how to go about implementing it.
As one principal told me, he loved the idea but the biggest barrier remained “fitting this new jigsaw piece into the existing puzzle that is running a legal practice”. If this sounds like you, here are my top 3 things to consider to help make legal process outsourcing work successfully for your firm.
1. Know your ‘Why’
The 3 most common problems our legal clients are looking for a solution to are:
- Dealing with fluctuations in volumes
- Productivity due to staff absence
- Service level variation during busy periods and staff re-allocation
- Costs of running the back office
Which of these is the main driver for you? While outsourcing offers clear cost advantages in replacing high fixed costs with lower variable costs, my belief is that outsourcing really benefits the firm when the overall objective is a commitment to move activities up the value chain toward higher levels of client service delivery.
Whatever your reasons, once you have this clarity on your why, you will make better informed decisions and be more committed to achieving the outcome.
2. Be prepared to invest
It might sound clichéd, but outsourcing really is a journey not a destination. Even with an experienced team who knows the process, every firm has their own way of doing things or slight variations. A great outsourcing service is an incredibly valuable asset that will keep paying dividends once set up, so it will require someone in the firm to oversee to get it right and keep it on track. Assign someone with great client relationship skills who has the patience and persistence to work through operational issues towards achieving the outcome.
Start with a trial period and review performance. One instance is not sufficient, you want to establish that you will be able to rely on your supplier to work together over a longer period, and this will require an assessment of a variety of factors from technical competence, price, communication and problem solving.
Focus on outsourcing one task or job, then systemising this and only when this is successfully running as you want, replicate the process across other tasks. The initial job will provide you with invaluable knowledge about both the team you are working with and your own internal process required to achieve a successful outcome, that will speed up implementing subsequent processes later on.
3. Get internal buy-in
Managing internal resistance to change may be the biggest hurdle you face in getting your outsourcing project off the ground. When the word “outsourcing” is mentioned, it is common that staff fear they are going to lose their jobs. So communicate your ‘Why’, get the buy-in of your staff with what it means for them. Look at your wishlist for improvement projects and have a plan for staff who will be affected for how their time will be re-assigned to new tasks.
The clearer these are articulated, the more likely that staff will come on board with the project and see outsourcing as part of a bigger picture towards positioning the firm for future growth, and therefore the security of their jobs. Actively involve staff in the process to get their ideas for activities which add value and ultimately add to productive revenue generation rather than just the busyness of getting the task done.
First published on the ALPMA Blog: A Survival Guide for Practice Managers – 3 tips to implement outsourcing