Outsourcing legal work is becoming quite common in the United States. Grunt work, such as document review, form preparation, and research can be done by contract lawyers, saving your firm time and money. However, when you outsource legal work, known as legal process outsourcing (LPO), you need to be sure that you are doing it correctly. You do not want your clients to suffer, and you need to be sure that you are doing everything ethically.
Knowing how and when to outsource can be complicated, following these ten tips will help you determine if you should outsource and how to do it properly.
1. Know Your Goals
Understand why you want to outsource in the first place. You may want to outsource some of your commodity tasks, for instance customer call services. Additionally, here are some possible reasons:
- Save money
- Want to take on bigger case
- Want to be competitive
- It’s a one-time project that needs more manpower
Knowing the reason behind outsourcing will help you find an outsource firm with the right qualifications to meet your goals.
2. Only Hire Experts
Only use an LPO provider that employs experts in what you need to have accomplished. Some smaller firms have an expertise in a particular area. If you choose a larger firm that offers many areas of expertise, be sure that the attorneys working with you are qualified.
3. Research the LPO
Before hiring an LPO, learn everything you can about them. Know their background and the processes they use. Make sure that they have processes in place to avoid conflicts of interest. Also, be sure they have the same ethical standards as your own firm. Before hiring, talk with them directly about these ethical considerations.
4. Look Domestically Before Offshore
Most people hear the work outsource and assume offshore. However, when it comes to LPO, U.S. companies may be a better fit and, at times, cheaper than offshore companies. In addition to the money issue, you are more likely to find a strong ethical fit with a company that is from the United States and knows the U.S. legal system.
5. Consent Is Necessary
Before you can use an LPO or any lawyer outside your firm to perform legal services for a client, that client should give their consent to do so. You must also believe that the LPO will give competent and ethical representation to your client. Remember, your clients are paying for you to do the work, so they should know if some of that work is going to be done elsewhere.
6. Think About Time Zones
If you decide to use an offshore LPO, leverage the time zone advantage. For instance, if you hire an LPO from India, they will be working while you sleep. In many ways, this makes your firm run 24 hours a day, allowing tasks to be finished faster.
7. Remember Privacy
Your client’s privacy must be paramount when hiring an LPO. Some law paperwork will become public record, other paperwork, however, remains private. Consider immigration, bankruptcy, and tax law, for instance. If you hire an LPO, you need to be sure they understand U.S. privacy laws and are willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Do everything possible to keep your client’s information private.
8. Pay Attention to Billing
Be careful how you bill for work you have outsourced. The American Bar Association states you cannot add a surcharge to work that has been outsourced. This means that whatever was billed by the LPO should be passed on to your client with no additional costs for service.
9. Look At All Your Options
At this time, India offers the most LPOs. However, countries such as Sri Lanka, South Korea, and New Zealand are also well-known. In fact, New Zealand has been making a name in the LPO field of intellectual property and patent law since their laws are similar to those in the United States. As stated previously, also consider domestic options, particularly those in the midwest.
10. Supervise Adequately
When you outsource, work sent out will need your review prior to any client seeing the work. The American Bar Association has stated that you must supervise anyone that is a subordinate to you when they do your legal work. When working with LPOs, especially those in foreign countries, be sure that you communicate regularly and investigate the background of those you hire. In the end, any legal work that comes out of your office, even if it was outsourced, will be your responsibility. If poor work is coming from outsourcing, you can lose clients as well as be held liable for legal issues.
Outsourcing legal work can help you grow your small firm without having to hire new attorneys or move into larger spaces. However, do so carefully so that you keep everything legal and ethical with your clients.