With the ever faster development of communication and information technologies, especially cloud computing, the outsourcing of legal services to lower cost providers, whether ‘onshore’ in the UK or ‘offshore’ in India and other jurisdictions, looks to be a growing trend that will one day soon become commonplace.
Thanks to my LinkedIn and Twitter activity one of the opportunities that came my way recently was a meeting in London with Pankaj Jain and Saby Ghosh of SKJ Legal, a law firm based in Pune, India which has a successful arm providing outsourced legal services to UK and US law firms, as well as directly to Western based companies. Pankaj and Saby have subsequently appointed me as a London based sales representative with the fancy title ‘Vice President, UK Operations’.
Although my involvement will be limited by my full time role with Bargate Murray, I am still keen to match SKJ Legal with any UK based law firms looking to establish a relationship with an Indian partner in order to provide their clients with more cost and time efficient services and win more work as a result. SKJ Legal operate fully secure systems and are experienced in assisting with document intensive disclosure and review exercises, legal research, property searches and standard contract drafting. It would be great to hear from anyone looking to explore these options further.
Enough of the sales pitch, I thought I’d also use this post to include some other points of note when considering outsourcing…
On the face of it outsourcing is a simple concept, but you need to exercise due care and attention to get the delivery right and make the relationship work.
As liability for delivering the services to the end client will be borne by the firm outsourcing the work you still need to ruthlessly check the quality and accuracy of the work before presenting the end product. You should check that your outsourcing partner is covered by professional indemnity insurance, but even if they are the practicalities of exercising such a policy in a jurisdiction such as India mean that you should ensure at the outset you are working with diligent and trustworthy people.
You should ensure that the tasks you outsource are very clearly defined and that your instructions are sufficiently detailed, especially where any work relies on an intricate knowledge of the client and the particular matter. In addition, those carrying out the work should have a good knowledge of the English legal system and language.
Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy recently took advantage of a government grant to set up its own outsourced services centre in Belfast. This option will be too expensive and inflexible for most smaller firms, but there is nothing to stop firms collaborating with those firms based in lower cost regions of the UK to deliver well managed outsourced services ‘onshore’. Cornwall is one such area I know well where there are a number of quality lawyers based at several law firms who could easily work with larger London practices.
South Africa is another jurisdiction that thanks to its common law background, time zone and language has several outsourcing outfits operating there. I even know from friends at large Johannesburg law firms that lawyers who have recently returned from working in the UK have taken their clients with them and are able to continue providing UK legal services but at a greatly reduced cost thanks to lower South African overheads. In fact, as long as you find the right business partner, UK law firms could establish a successful outsourcing arrangement with firms and lawyers in any commonwealth country who have a sufficient degree of familiarity with the English language and common law legal system.
Advantages of outsourcing
There are numerous benefits to outsourcing, not least the cost and efficiency savings. Other advantages are the ability to free up time for you to focus on more lucrative areas of work, the reduction in expensive overheads such as retained employees and office space, greater flexibility, being able to delegate tasks to those more capable and experienced, enlarging your workforce but without the risks and liability of employing people and being able to accommodate large workloads and minimise fluctuations in headcount that could result from peaks and troughs in demand.