The stage is set; after a several long meeting s and one awful presentation when the Power point decided to go on “Slowmo” we have finally reached that point where, to be honest, no one in the room actually thought we would achieve. The partners of Smith Smith and Smith are about to leap into the unknown and make the biggest change in their legal history, that their preceding past partners are primed ready to swivel in their casks. They are about to engage a outside company and enter the world of “Outsourcing”
And then suddenly, it comes from the senior partner, seated in the corner of the room; the question no one dared to ask “So what happens to all our existing lawyers?”
In those few words, the room falls silent, as the thought of the letter writing, the fond farewells and the bulk order of gold (plated) watches are dispatched. Everyone, including the Elephant in the room, knows what he means. Who goes and who stays and what does that say about all those principles that firm like them had hoped to stand for.
As the director of a global Legal outsourcing company, I have a very easy job.
It is not for me to tell you how to run your business, and if the massive cost savings I provide you lead you down this unfavourable path, then don’t worry it lasts a short time and soon you will be enjoying the delights of that new Bentley which wont upset the staff, because you have no one left to upset. The concept of Legal and in fact any outsourcing is as old as the hills. Technically Pharaoh outsourced the construction of the pyramids and his grand palaces to the likes of the Israelites, and Bedouins of the time. And with every nation conqueror by the Romans, a local outsourcing network was established for sword and chariot manufacturing. OK the labour conditions were not the best at that time and hopefully things have progressed since then, but the principle is the same; utilise a different economy to exploit your capacity to drive down overheads. But what does happen to the staff that we perceive to be surplus to requirement the temptation is undoubtedly to reduce the head count especially in the existing times of recession. However there is a more dynamic way to view outsourcing that perhaps is less obvious but more entrepreneurial. I am going to be bold now and say this; letting people go, is the lazy mans approach to outsourcing. However, I truly believe this to be true. If you focus right in on the department that you want to outsource, it seems clear that you now have a low cost alternative and therefore you no longer need the large overhead sitting at their desks. How much did each of those employees cost you?
Not, just the annual salary, but the investment. Right from the recruitment or head hunter fee, to the courses and CPD evening meets, that makes them the all round lawyer they are.
Like it or not but there is a little bit of you inside all your staff and you now risk throwing that away along with them in the desire to reduce costs. Also you do run a risk at the annual OLP softball competition of being the only guy whose company team will be on Skype!
So I have convinced you to outsource and keep your existing team and my mother in law at weekends;
how is outsourcing helping me and driving down my costs? If I am honest, every new client we take on has a different way of doing things. Processes? Yes you lawyers do actually use them, you just don’t admit it.
Processes differ largely and they should as you strive to be better than your competition.
It can take on average up to a month to learn and adapt and implement the changes needed for a firm to make the transition onto the outsourcing arena. It can be sooner but you do have to take care to introduce the systems. The image I always want partners to have is that the outsourcing team is your virtual team. There, for the greater expansion of your business. We are the offence team that you call in once you have done the hard work of getting us to the 5yard line.Your team is ;your reputation, your local sponsorship , your successful case wins, your position in local politics, your client facing strategies (we will talk about this in a minute as I see a lot of blank faces) your ability to drive new business to your firm.
By taking on an outsourcing company, you are not only creating the opportunity to drive down costs, but also the greater function to deliver the above list of opportunities, your team should be specialist at. Take client-facing strategies; in a recent poll in 2007, UK companies said that the one thing that irked them most with UK professional firms, was that they never regularly saw their professional advisors and never really got to grips with everything they did. I had the dubious experience of waiting in a client’s reception to see him emerge with a competitor from his office, when I later approached the subject, enquiring lamely was my firms service not to his liking, he replied on the contrary, he was very satisfied. It was that my company did not deal in property, while my competitor was there to help him on a property deal. I happened to work for a firm with one of the largest property departments in the UK.
My point is obvious I hope, if you are not getting out there with you clients then you will not know where the business is coming from. Nevertheless, many of you probably do this already, at the golf club, the sailing club, the tennis club, and you may do well with the MDs and CEOs of large corporate making sure you are included in the next take over deal.
But for the rest of us, the sight of a senior partner walking into my reception screams of “this is going to cost me lots!” or” wow times must be hard they are sending the board a knocking!”
Plus your clients probably don’t know you and they want to be reassured by “their solicitor” not you.
So get your guys out there. They have the time now, not to “drum up business” but to meet and discuss and build relationships with clients. Get to really know your clients business. Communicate between departments. If your client lets slip about a difficult litigious matter, don’t try to muddle through or worse state clearly” I am not a litigator” but invite him out for coffee (don’t charge him!) and bring someone from your litigation department to talk it through.
So all your old staffs are out in coffee houses and your new Outsourced team is in India; you still aren’t going to win that softball championship!
Author and Pioneer of personal relationship development, Dale Carnegie (author of How to win friends and influence People) said “try to understand your people.try to figure out what they do, what they aspire to and what they want out of life”
Outsourcing now presents you with a real opportunity to do this. So often everyone is labelled by their job title; he’s a great Litigator; he is a Rottweiler in the Divorce Courts . She’s something to do with Tax!
But what are your lawyers really good at? Are they mangers, socialisers, coordinators, really friendly and nice?
Yes they will be good lawyers, that’s why they are working for you, but understand these qualities and suddenly you transform your firm into a multi faceted company that has high class people to manage large teams of outsourced solicitors. Professional ,astute solicitors to meet and build relationships with your existing clients and also new ones.
A room full of creative minds, which can work to establish your firm’s identity as being one of the most dynamic companies to work with.
The list is endless, and you only get to see the list when you start to understand your staff.
And a word for any sole practitioners reading this, the same applies to you. What are your own strengths and weaknesses? Have you ventured from out of your desk to take the time to meet your clients or would your world collapse and fall around you?
It is your business and you need to grow it. Outsourcing can really give you the capacity to go from a small firm to a medium firm overnight but you also must be prepared to move into a more case management front-facing role.
So back to the offices of Smith, Smith and Smith and that old partners question,
” what happens to the old staff”.
The answer is simple they become the main focus for your outsourcing strategy.
You create a process where your top solicitors are now managing more cases than even they can imagine. We can put in virtual teams of five or more solicitors for less than the cost of one, and someone needs to manage these teams.
You take the time to understand the qualities your staff have – de lawyer them and create different roles outside of their usual practising roles, and utilise the investment you have already made to really create well rounded business professionals
Use this opportunity to get to know all your clients business from all levels. While you can discuss issues at board level, your staff can be building the relationship with the managers that issue the work to firms.
In short grasp the outsourcing opportunity with both hands and bring your staff along with you.
The fear of how will the staff react need not be an issue if they see their role becoming more senior and less drudgery as they are now overseeing more cases and getting out of the office more and more. Will outsourcing save your company money?
Definitely. Will it grow your company? Unexpectedly, and at an immense speed, and you need all your professionals on board from day one. Will you lose staff? Yes there is a high possibility that this is not for everyone and getting out from behind your desk is a step too far for some.However they would have left you anyway, and not lost too much sleep over it.
The next ten years will be full of change for all law firms in the UK we are hearing murmurs of deregulation, and other nastiness being discussed around parliament.
We can fight or accept change and with it embrace the benefits and prepare our company for the changes that ensue.
The benefits of Outsourcing are fantastic if you look at the whole package and not just the cost reduction benefits. It can have a real impact as instead of being parked by a photocopier, your newly qualified solicitors now have the time to be properly fast tracked to a management of small cases delivered by senior offshore solicitors.
Your senior lawyers are now your main ambassadors and are really seeing all sides of running a practice. In conclusion
, you have a great opportunity now to be brave and move forward with your organisation and at the same time enjoy real benefits and opportunities arising from it.
You may think I’m biased, and I am. I got into this business by enjoying the great benefits outsourcing brought to my business and the levels it the company achieved.
As the man says, “I liked it so much I bought the company”
So what are you waiting for, new Horizons await us all.
Brain is an expert author for Tsl Consultancy he has written many articles like Properties for Sale
, Properties For Rent