Lawyers and firms should no longer think that they have to do everything themselves in order for it to be right. This is especially true if the practice is overwhelmed. In such practices, doing everything yourself will lead to poor service for clients or cause you to go out of business.
Instead of incurring problems, a busy law firm can outsource work that doesn’t need to have the expertise of a lawyer or their personal attention. Some things to outsource include:
- Mailroom services
- Records Management
- Virtual Assistants (VA) and paralegals
- Contract lawyers
- IT capability
Of these, the last three are relatively new. Let’s look at how they work.
VA/Paralegal: These assistants work from their own location over the Internet. They can help with work that is related to the specific law firm and tailored to meet the needs of the practice. Due to technology, a VA can be hired as an independent business owner, rather than an employee or subordinate. This means the firm can save money on employee benefits and only hire the VA or paralegal for the job at hand, rather than always having them on the payroll. If a firm uses the same VA or paralegal continuously, over time, they learn about the firm’s practice and will become attuned to the needs of the practice.
Contract Lawyers (LPO): These lawyers are hired from companies specializing in offering legal service work. Typically, this work can be done at a lower cost and is provided electronically. Although LPO outsourcing began in countries like India, it is now being done in the United States and is sometimes referred to as “onshoring.” Big “onshore” states include West Virginia and North Dakota.
Cloud Computing: This is allowing firms to outsource IT capability in such areas as document assembly, document management, practice management, and time and billing programs. The firm does not need to buy expensive software because the cloud computing company has the software and uses an offsite server to have access to the needed documents.
Outsourcing makes great business sense, but lawyers and firms needs to be aware of the ethical considerations surrounding outsourcing. According to the American Bar Association (Opinion 8-451, August 2008), lawyers can use outsourcing as long as:
- Fees are reasonable
- Clients know about and consent to the outsourcing
- All practicing of law is authorized
- All law work that is outsourced is supervised to be sure that competent, quality work is being conducted
Lawyers today will need to understand how to oversee work being completed in the world of outsourcing because outsourcing is here to stay.