As a matter of fact, legal process outsourcing industry is developing day by day. Encouraged by the big growth, small law firms and solo attorneys at offshore locations like US, UK, etc. are looking for opportunity and feasibility of outsourcing their work to law firms in locations like India. But, they have their own concerns and problems while choosing suitable LPO Vendor.
Trusting the vendor to be ultimately choosen is very important and significant in the process. If there is cynicism in once mind, the relationship will not succeed.
Choosing the vendor: It is not advisable for solo attorneys or small law firms to go after the big names because they won’t be the large client for them and therefore not always high on their priority list. Choose a mid-sized vendor, who has certain advantages that work in his favor, may be a non-metro location or may be attractive stock options for employees or whatever, such that he is able to provide you with quality resources and commitment to service with customized quality service. Make sure to meet the vendor before begining regular work with them. This may mean sitting in a coach seat for a trip half way round the world, but if the relation works out and grows, it will be worth the backache and the bad food!
Confidentiality: It is just natural to be worried about the confidentiality of the documents sent to offshore locations. India and Indians are no better or worse when it comes to protecting the confidentiality of data, so the same amount of caution as taken in once own country should be taken. Confidentiality shouldn’t be taken lightly and appropriate care be taken to build confidentiality into the contract to be signed with the vendor with heavy penalties in the event of a violation.
Conduct pilots: Good looking websites, ISO certifications, impressive management profiles, etc. may look good tool as first level of filters in due-diligence process. However, I personally don’t feel them as only tool for due deligence, specially in Indian conditions and that to for small law firms. It is because ultimate target of outsourcing is to have cost reduction as much as possible without compromise in quality and number of small law firms, although don’t spend on good looking websites, ISO certifications, etc. but they have abilities and expertise to provide quality services. Hence, to assess capabilty of an LPO vendor, giving them pilot projects can be a good tool.
Train people: No one knows more about the style and nuances better than the person who intends to outsource, so the best teacher for people who work for him is only he. The best way is to ask for the persons, who will be working and then train the team on law, research and analysis, drafting, etc. Further, make sure that LPO vendor respects the fact that much effort in training is spent and that intellectual property is not used beyond what is permited. Also, make sure and help LPO vendor to retain the people trained.
Increase the skill of the people: Just as the coaching job does not stop at the initial training when one hire in his own country, having a resource offshore is no different. Conduct constant feedback sessions for the people who work. Such sessions don’t have to be elaborate: inline comments, regular teleconferences and occasional video-conferences, if both your vendor and you have access to, are enough. Begin with low complexity work for the offshore resources and over time (few months or as applicable) increase the complexity of the work. For example, if you are a patent prosecution lawyer, begin by asking the vendor to conduct searches, gradually moving the writing the more descriptive sections and over a longer period of time moving to claims drafting.
Meet the LPO Vendor: Physically seeing LPO vendor or his resources may not be often possible always. But do it whenever possible. As a matter of providing a tip for doing that, I can suggest to combine an Asian vacation with a day’s visit to the LPO vendor’s premises. Speak to the team often. Form a relation; it matters a lot to Indian people if you ask about their family, interests and aspirations.
Legal Personnel Shopping: This isn’t a common form of practice in the LPO industry at present, but I think it to be a good idea if an arrangement can be made where the people who work for the outsorcer can be trained at outsourcer’s location for sometime and then sent back to the vendor’s location but dedicated for the work for a committed period of time. This notion worked very well for IT companies and their western clients in the 90s. It boosts productivity, reduces costs and helps increase the complexity of work that you can get done offshore.
Be nice: Give references to the LPO vendor, if you like them. Doing so will make the LPO vendor always respect once work and demands. Seeing friends benefit from LPO, a notion that one introduced to them, will only make the one popular and respected!
Do remember, persistence pays, so don’t give up because an experiment or two failed. Happy Offshoring.