Building a collaborative alliance
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF AN OUTSOURCING PROVIDER IN THE LEGAL SECTOR
A collaborative alliance between law firm and outsource provider from the outset will ensure that the solutions and services deployed are specific to the needs of an individual firm, supportive of their strategic agenda and focused on delivering tactical efficiencies and improved service levels. So why is this rarely enough?
Working in partnership is an easy phrase to use; but realising the full benefits of outsourcing requires more than the lip service of simply giving it a partnership label. It’s a truism that supporting and actively promoting the successes of the other party means that everyone benefits. Evidence from 20 years’ experience with satisfied clients confirms that this is unquestionably true.
There are times when outsourcing transactional tasks is a useful option – for example to meet peaks in case loads or at times of transition. But when a tangible and longer-term improvement in the bottom line is sought, appointing an effective outsource provider presents an opportunity for transformative change.
SO, HOW CAN A FIRM ESTABLISH A TRUE PARTNERSHIP WITH AN OUTSOURCE PROVIDER?
We’ve identified three elements that will enable law firms to reap the benefits of effective partnership:
Upfront consideration of “what’s best for service?” will quickly establish a shared vision and purpose. If the priorities, protocols and reporting lines are agreed in advance – as well as widely communicated and regularly reviewed – the service is bespoke, efficient and of the highest standards required by the law firm.
Chemistry is key to a thriving partnership too. Working closely together on a management, team and individual level for extended periods means the importance of ‘getting along’ cannot be underestimated. It fosters an open relationship in which respect and acknowledgement is offered for a task well done, whilst there is an easy route to constructively and promptly deal with any issues.
A valuable outsource provider will help law firms to effect change. They can re-engineer entire support service functions and deliver improvements in productivity and service levels. Improvements in staff morale, retention and skill levels are another facet of the benefits. What the outsource provider can’t do is support the change of an ingrained culture of blame without the complete and wholehearted mandate of decision makers and fee earners. The spotlight of attention is often switched on when services are outsourced and it’s natural to make before and after comparisons; what’s critical here is working towards a collaborative alliance. Understanding the responsibilities of each party avoids an ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach and fosters an ethic of teamwork and problem solving.
Such an approach requires a deep understanding of the legal sector and the way firms operate. An understanding of the skills, technology and culture required, coupled with transparent communications form the basis of success; rather than a transactional exchange of services for payment, the most fruitful partnerships are borne of out of co-creation1.
Once a law firm has found the best fitting provider, they need to trust them to do what they’re being paid for. Removing micro-management ensures leaders are afforded the time to focus on the strategic direction of the firm, whilst the outsourced teams can embrace the autonomy to excel.
Agreeing service levels – for example – is a necessary, if pedestrian, practice. But once done, rather than review the service levels or past transactions line by line, exception reporting enables all parties to have the bandwidth to focus on future optimisation when meeting together.
There will be those who feel this is a leap of faith but the faithful will quickly realise that a good outsourcing provider wants to excel: their reputation is at stake and their ability to delivery service evolution is a pre-requisite of ongoing contract renewals.
In summary, communicating annual objectives and inviting contribution to their achievement, allows a strategic outsourcing partner like Intelligent Office to create workflows, effectively re-engineer processes and successfully implement broad operational change. On a tactical level, trusting our experienced teams to constructively manage the day-to-day and advise on best practice is empowering for everyone concerned. Integration and transparent communication oil the wheels of the relationship; and for fee earners, which company’s name is on the payslip of their exemplary supporting staff should be of little concern.
With a smart mindset from the beginning, the law firms willing to share their operational challenges with the providers of their support services stand to gain the most, both in the breadth and brilliance of the response but also in the valuable time they’re able to regain. It could just be a win-win.