Before we discuss outsourcing, we need to get our terms straight. When we use the ‘o’ word, we are not talking about taking specialist advice from law firms on such matters as regulatory conduct or M&A.
Instead, we are talking about internal processes which could and should be handed over to a third party.
Outsourcing will save you time and money and guard the aforementioned precious internal resource for more important activities.
Understandably, though, many lawyers are nervous about outsourcing whole chunks of their activity, especially if they’ve never done it before.
Let’s look at a list of the main objections to outsourcing. Do these mirror your own concerns?
- I’d rather do things myself or supervise my own team, to make sure the quality is right.
- If we lose whole ‘volume’ functions, we may just become a postbox for legal enquiries for the business.
- Outsourcing is admitting that some things are less important, and as lawyers we know that everything is important.
- We have internal resources which are sunk costs, it’ll be cheaper if they do it.
Outsourcing is a matter of trust and control.
You trust your own team and supervising them directly gives you more control, but keeping everything in-team can cause problems. Getting your team to do low-risk volume work will dent morale, make it more difficult to recruit and waste your highly qualified resource.
If you find the right outsourcer, they become an extension of your Legal team. They’ll be more specialist than your team on the particular task you give them – as they do the same thing day in and day out – and more flexible, able to substitute resource quickly and effectively so you have no breaks in service.
If you choose to create an internal ‘champion’ instead for something like DSARs, for instance, if that person is sick or leaves, the gap needs to be plugged immediately by another team member or service ceases. Alternatively, if you get your whole team to do it, you’re wasting a portion of everyone’s time.
As to becoming a postbox or being seen simply as a hub, that’s your ego talking. What the business cares about is profitable growth, and the more efficiently and effectively you can handle all its legal and quasi-legal issues and steer it out of danger, the better. Nothing else matters.
On the final point, about costs, this is a mirage. Your internal resource may be a ‘sunk cost’ in your eyes, but it’s a resource that should be deployed to maximum effect in pursuit of your strategy, not gummed up with a glut of small fry contracts. If your team is occupied in this way, you’ll end up having to get law firms to do more, and as you will know only too well, there’s no more expensive way of doing something.