"Although law firms have traditionally outsourced services like security, travel or mail, the allure of Thomas Friedman's 'flat' world has some law firms looking hard at whether to outsource other functions. The options are no longer limited to an outside vendor running a service in-house. Instead, firms face an impressive array of options offered around the globe, from Chennai, India, to Wheeling, W.Va. Navigating these decisions requires thoughtful consideration of your business goals and careful planning.
"When White & Case expanded its outsourcing arrangements to include its word processing, creative design and publishing functions, the critical factor aside from cost-efficiencies was the significant potential for improving client and lawyer service. By moving these functions to an outside global vendor, the firm eliminated duplication of staff and equipment, consolidated and cross-trained staff, improved cost efficiencies and set a better firmwide support platform to leverage its global capabilities and 24/7 service. Smaller offices are now able to access improved service on a 24/7 platform that notably upgrades their ability to serve both lawyers and clients.
"Carefully research a vendor's history, capabilities and competitors and definitely follow up with their references. Speak to your peers at other law firms to see what works and doesn't and get additional referrals. Friends outside of the legal profession can share a wealth of information from their experience, since corporations have been outsourcing functions for longer.
"Once the vendor has been selected, a detailed roll-out plan must be created. Thoroughly evaluate the work product during the transition phase -- including setting up a 'shadow' team that performs the same tasks for comparison. Consider having an on-site project manager from your vendor who will be available for daily communications and who will understand your business.
"It must be acknowledged that outsourcing decisions always make staff anxious -- and understandably so. It's crucial, therefore, that staff who are affected by the decision, whether they are moving or staying, be communicated with frankly and supportively. Once the dialogue gets past the anxiety stage, people are eager to look forward to the future and the new opportunities that may unfold."
Author Karen Asner, a commercial litigator and an administrative partner at White & Case in New York, oversees all administrative aspects of the firm's 36 offices and helps shape firm culture, policies and strategic business objectives.