The difference between a smart law practice and a stressed one sometimes comes down to a single word: outsourcing.
Smart firms know when and how to outsource. Stressed firms try to keep it all in-house. And while outsourcing is not a new concept, it has gained fresh currency in an age where collaboration easily transcend walls and offices.
“Opportunities for outsourcing exist for law firms,” writes Nina Cunningham for Altman Weil. “Over the four decades since the explosive growth in private firms began, many of their needs have been outsourced, from mailroom and photocopy services to accounting. Legal research has been outsourced to leased databases, and so has more specialized legal research and brief writing, the traditional work of law firm associates.”
The starting point is to assess your firm’s strengths. You don’t want to outsource what you do well, after all. Instead, identify gaps and weaknesses in your service delivery process. Look outside the office for viable ways to shore up these areas.
One important caveat: when it comes to outsourcing, law firms must always be mindful of their ethical and fiduciary obligations, starting with client confidentiality.
Play to Your Strengths
What law firms are selling is professional problem-solving, says Cunningham. If outsourcing makes it easier, quicker and cheaper to solve a client’s problem, then it should be considered.
Here are seven things to consider outsourcing:
- Expertise you lack. Nobody is great at everything. Free yourself and your staff to do what you do best by calling in an expert when needed.
- Legal research and library services. “Since associates, paralegals, and library services now make up a substantial part of a law firm’s operating budget, properly leveraging the best talent and outsourcing the balance can stop the bleeding of many firms,” says Cunningham. “Reassessing the meaning of profitability can also help.”
- Billing, scheduling, data entry and basic customer assistance. These jobs are tailor-made for a virtual assistant.
- Other mundane tasks. “Be sure neither you, nor your best workers, devote time to tasks that don’t fit the appropriate skill set or level of expertise,” according to Inc. “These repetitive to-dos aren’t building your teammates’ skill levels; they’re simply getting faster at doing template work. You need them on more demanding tasks. Automate what you can, and outsource the rest.”
- Written content, videos and creative work. Need a logo? New website? Blog content? You’ll find lots of options online at a cost that will suit your budget.
- “It’s one thing to consider outsourcing IT, but another to actually implement it,” says this FinTech piece. “Change can be difficult, and the key to a successful engagement is trust. It’s often best to start small.”
- What you struggle to do. “Every company has an Achilles’ heel,” writes Gene Hammett for Inc. “Is HR a week-after-week headache? Does your team struggle to compile newsletters? Decide whether to outsource according to two factors: First, can you hire an internal team member for less than the cost of an agency fee? If so, do you know someone who’d do as good a job as the prospective partner? If you can’t answer yes to both questions, outsource it. Spending the time to recruit for a role you can barely afford isn’t a smart bet.”
What functions do you outsource in your firm? What tips would you offer other lawyers?