Legal practices continue to look for ways of adapting their businesses to what Richard Susskind calls a ‘new legal profession’. In doing so, many are reflecting on what it is that lawyers do best. They are asking “what is it that our clients value most and how can we deliver our service to them in the most efficient manner?”
In the process, they are re-evaluating where the focus of their attention should and should not lie.
This brings me to the first question: why should any firm consider outsourcing?
The answer is simple. If any part of a law firm’s business operation would be better executed by specialists – led, trained and managed by experts – that firm should investigate carefully the option of outsourcing.
Business process outsourcing has four main benefits:
a) Saving management time – not to be under-estimated. A law firm’s management team prefers to focus its efforts on determining a growth strategy, on developing its lawyers, and on delivering excellent client service, free of the burden of managing business support functions. In this way, it is better placed to transform the performance of the practice;
b) Improving operating procedures – better aligned with the needs of lawyers: a firm in which business support services are delivered by specialists whose core business is constantly to streamline processes and drive improvements in the way lawyers are supported; a firm where those specialists are held accountable for achieving the highest standards; this is a practice where lawyers’ lives are made all the more efficient;
c) Improving service levels – a constant focus on finding better ways of doing things, combined with a true client-provider service ethic means that outsourced business support functions are happy to be judged on everything they do, however small;
d) Delivering cost efficiencies – it is a myth that the primary purpose of outsourcing is to achieve cost savings. But over time, through operational efficiencies and by identifying innovative ways of doing things, a firm will realise meaningful savings. One of the key measures of this is ‘cost of support service per fee earner’ and firms are advised to use this as key performance indicator.
The second question is: what should firms look for in a business process outsourcing partner?
It almost goes without saying that firms should identify providers which have an intimate knowledge of
the legal market. But they should also insist companies have a track record of success achieved by working with a broad range of practices over many years. Furthermore, it is important to find a partner whose process of getting to know a prospective client – and the way in which they work – demonstrates how thoroughly they approach everything they do.
No two law firms are the same and therefore a bespoke approach is an essential ingredient. A BPO provider that is open and honest about the challenges associated with making the transition is more likely to succeed. Such a company is better able to understand the dynamics at play during what is a sensitive time. Prospective clients should look closely at the providers’ leadership team, its training methods and its record as an employer.