Outsourcing legal work has grown prevalent in the United States as a result of rising expenses and growing rivalry among law firms, both big and small. Law companies of all sizes may save a significant amount of money by outsourcing “grunt labour,” such as document review, form preparation, and legal research, to contract attorneys rather than in-house colleagues. This allows them to grow their businesses in ways that were previously inconceivable. Lawyers who are contemplating outsourcing legal work, also known as legal process outsourcing, or LPO, must exercise extreme caution in their decision-making in order to provide the best possible service to their customers while remaining on the legal and ethical side of the fence. These 10 suggestions should assist you in determining if outsourcing is appropriate for your company and in determining how to go about it properly.
Begin by focusing on your end aim. Before determining whether to outsource legal work to a contract attorney in the United States or overseas, think about what you want to achieve in the end. Is it your goal to outsource so that you may save money on legal fees? Alternatively, is it because your small business wishes to take on larger cases while yet being competitive? Or maybe you have a single project that requires a small amount of additional staff, but you do not have the necessary resources. Having a clear vision of what you want from an outsourced lawyer will aid you in selecting the one with the appropriate credentials to assist you in achieving your objectives as effectively as possible.
Locate subject matter specialists. Speaking of credentials, after you have determined the sort of work you want from an LPO provider, be certain that the company you choose employs the type of professionals you require. A competitive advantage for your small law practise might be gained from outsourcing organisations that have built up expertise in a certain procedure. According to the worldwide outsourcing company Integreon, legal outsourcing vendors “really become specialists at managing functions” since it is their exclusive line of business, which is legal services. “Vendors might invest in efficiency-enhancing techniques or technology and spread the expense over a large number of clients,” says the article. While bigger outsourcing organisations may be able to provide a wide range of services effectively, you should ensure that the lawyers who will be working on your project are specialists in their field.
Conduct a comprehensive investigation. Along with examining the skills of any possible LPO supplier, it is critical to understand the company’s history, including its procedures, and to understand its business model. For example, you should make it a point to understand the company’s procedures for preventing conflicts of interest before signing any contracts. Many customers are served by larger outsourcing organisations, and offshore corporations may not be held to the same ethical standards that your company is required to adhere to. It is important to bring this problem up directly with the firm before to employing them in order to guarantee that you are covering all of your ethical ground.
Take, for example, domestic sources. Outsourcing is often associated with transferring work outside to nations where the cost of living is less expensive and labour is usually available for a lower price. Outsourcing inside the United States, on the other hand, is conceivable and, in certain cases, even preferred. In fact, according to the American Bar Association Journal, outsourcing legal work to domestic enterprises in the Midwest, in regions such as Ohio, may be as cost-effective as or even less expensive than hiring professionals from outside. According to a survey by the outsourcing business Fronterion, “wage inflation overseas, as well as sluggish labour markets locally in the United States and the United Kingdom, have dramatically reduced the cost disparity between the two countries.” There is also the advantage of dealing with lawyers who adhere to the same ethical standards as you and who are fully versed with the legal system in the United States. When choosing an LPO supplier, be sure to consider your domestic choices as well.
Obtain the permission of the subject. When dealing with an LPO provider, it is critical to adhere to your ethical standards as you would in any other legal situation. According to the American Bar Association, this is what happens:
Before retaining or contracting with other lawyers outside of the lawyer’s own firm to provide or assist in the provision of legal services to a client, the lawyer should ordinarily obtain informed consent from the client and must reasonably believe that the other lawyer’s services will contribute to the competent and ethical representation of the client in the matter at hand.
You must notify your client if any work on his or her case is being outsourced to a third-party company, as described above. After all, your customers are not paying for the services of an unknown lawyer on the other side of the planet; they are paying for the services of your company. When it comes to outsourcing legal work, it is vitally essential to maintain professional standards.
Take advantage of the different time zones. However, despite the fact that domestic outsourcing may be relatively cost-effective, there is little doubt that legal outsourcing offshore, notably in India, has become a significant industry. The number of legal outsourcing businesses in India increased by more than 150 percent between 2005 and 2009 alone, according to Indian consultancy company Valuenotes, with revenues estimated to exceed $1 billion by 2014. If you decide to become a part of this thriving industry, be sure to take advantage of the benefits that come with doing business with India. Many attorneys find outsourcing to India advantageous since Indian lawyers are able to work when U.S. attorneys are sleeping, allowing duties to be completed more quickly and efficiently.
Pay great attention to any worries about privacy. Another issue when using hired lawyers in any capacity, in addition to informed consent, is the protection of attorney-client confidentiality. While most of the documentation associated with litigation deals with information that is already in the public domain, the laws governing immigration, bankruptcy, and taxation are considerably different. It is essential that the lawyers you choose to handle with sensitive information be well-versed in U.S. privacy laws and sign appropriate disclosure agreements when required, according to the FTC. Everything involving a client’s private information must be handled with complete sensitivity and in a manner that minimises any danger to the client’s privacy.
Bill with care and respect for the law. The American Bar Association has also expressed its opinion on the subject of charging when it comes to outsourced legal services. They have claimed that it is unethical for a law firm to impose a fee for work performed by an outsourced lawyer or paralegal. The fee charged to your company by the outsourced attorney should be the same amount charged to the client, unless otherwise agreed upon.
Examine all of your alternatives. India is by far the biggest foreign contingent for legal outsourcing in the United States, but other nations are quickly gaining ground in the rapidly expanding field. Sri Lanka, South Korea, and New Zealand are all rising stars in the area of long-term planning. In the field of intellectual property and other patent law, New Zealand should be of special interest since their patent system is quite similar to that of the United States. In your search for LPO providers, be sure to go beyond the traditional local and Indian options in order to acquire the finest personnel at the most competitive price for your company. Due to the maturation of the sector, domestic solutions are becoming more cost-effective as well.
Make sure there is enough monitoring. To outsource legal work does not necessarily indicate that your company may simply send away the work you need at the time and have it delivered straight to your customer. The American Bar Association has emphasised that, in addition to and including outsourcing, an attorney must provide proper supervision to subordinate lawyers and non-attorneys who are involved in legal work. When dealing with international lawyers, this may be a particularly difficult task. The American Bar Association recommends frequent contact as well as a comprehensive study of the background of the foreign counsel. In the end, any legal work that is assigned to your company is the duty of your firm. If you lose customers as a result of bad performance, you lose all of the benefits of outsourcing. Therefore, oversight and evaluation are essential.