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If you haven’t heard of legal outsourcing, you will.  A new trend in delivering legal services has emerged.  Known as LPO, or legal process outsourcing, many legal firms in the U.S. have begun to ask themselves if sending work overseas is a beneficial practice.  Unlike other sectors, this practice requires a bit more due to confidentiality laws and attorney – client privilege.  “It’s a fine line”, says founder A. Harrison Barnes.  Even as it begins to pick up momentum, there are disadvantages to outsourcing any legal work, including secretarial duties.  Still, some of the benefits are difficult to ignore.

Most law firms consider the cost savings as a big advantage.  A. Harrison Barnes says those savings are only as good as the quality of work that comes back. If you have to pay overtime to a paralegal or your legal administrative assistant, then your savings are shot – and then some.  It’s true the wage and salary differences are substantial, but keep in mind, you’re putting your law firm’s reputation on the line.  The cautions attorneys to think long and hard before opting to outsource.

Keep in mind, too, that traditionally, a law firm has one or more face to face interviews before bringing new talent on board.  From new attorneys to secretaries, with outsourcing, you forfeit that advantage.  And if you’re using a third party, you forfeit even more in terms of picking and choosing the best talent for your needs.

Most law firms spent at least part of their time meeting court deadlines.  If you’ve outsourced a task and are waiting for the work to be completed, you could be causing yourself ulcers wondering if your overseas legal help is going to drop the ball or come through at the eleventh hour.  And, as Barnes says, “No judge is going care if your briefs aren’t ready because it got lost in the process.”  If you do choose to give legal outsourcing a good effort, choose a project that allows you to effectively gauge the experience of the contractor, but that doesn’t jeopardize your reputation.

Finally, it’s important that just because it’s 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon at your office, your outsourced help could be turning in for the night, depending on where in the world they are.  You might enjoy a bit of flexibility, but it’s also at the outsourced employee’s mercy.  It’s a gamble and a huge leap of faith.

Law firms that consider outsourcing are looking at the benefits, and there are several.  That said, be sure the benefits are worth the sacrifices – there will be sacrifices made along the way.  Ask other attorneys who have given outsourcing a try and then weigh their experiences against what you hope to gain in your own efforts.  Avoid going into a long contract, keep the initial projects small in an effort to gauge the level of comprehension and always be prepared to pick up the pieces if necessary.

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