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OUTSOURCING AND THE LAW FIRM

Staff outsourcing in the law office can mean hiring free-lance paralegals to do work that was previously done in-house. Managing partners or law office administrators within firms of every size and profit position are looking seriously at downsizing, rightsizing, re-sizing, etc. Outsourcing is at the root of these sizing initiatives. Outsourcing is a process, not a specific solution to a specific problem. When employing an outsourcing process as an approach to solving problems within a firm, there is a big picture to be considered. First, though, consider some of the problems that may occur in which employing the outsourcing process would be prudent: 

Space - you need more hands on deck to assist in the litigation of a complex case but your office space does not allow for more staff; 

Time - you need assistance because you are under great time constraints for a project and your in-house staff cannot do it alone in time; 

Profitability - you need assistance but your firm's budget does not allow for the hiring of more staff because of the cost of salary, payroll taxes, and benefits; 

Temporary conditions - your staff member is going on vacation or medical leave and you cannot hire a permanent employee to fill the gap; 

Competency - you have a case that needs administration but none of your staff has experience in that area of law. 

When outsourcing is considered in light of the services being provided to the firm by the in-house staff, such as writing, research, computer software know-how, and the ability to manage client files in all areas of law, you begin to see the value of outsourcing. Consider the cost of outsourcing service, the quality level of the service provided, the impact on the law office culture, and what will be necessary to supervise the outsource provider. Do not use just any service in your haste to have someone do the work for you. Do your homework first. Know your outsource provider. Know that the quality of work product you expect will be delivered to you in a timely and profitable manner. 

Tips

(1) Know and have a clear understanding of the type and amount of all costs associated with the outsource paralegal service that is currently being provided. 

(2) Have a clear understanding and qualification of the type and level of service being experienced with the paralegal provider. 

(3) Develop a clear understanding of the type and level of service which will be acceptable for the work when provided in the future. 

(4) Advise your in-house staff of your decision to outsource to avoid producing a negative cultural impact. Policy and procedure changes within the firm can cause chaos, double work, and hurt feelings. Outsourcing decisions can impact law office culture, especially when they represent a departure from the way things have been done in the firm traditionally. 

(5) Make sure that the direct supervision of the paralegal outsource provider is done in-house. This is in keeping with the RPC's, and generally good business habits. 

Clients want to respect their attorney and rely upon him/her to give them the best representation possible. Unless systems are in place in the law office, time and money are wasted on tasks such as looking for files or documents in sloppy files, losing track of what has been done on a particular case, losing track of due dates and forgetting to bill the client or that your client has paid a retainer. Many good attorneys need better systems such as filing, diary, billing, bookkeeping and personnel. Good systems produce a more comfortable workplace, less stress, better marketability, and more income. Law Office Management Outsourcing can turn your firm around with new systems, better ideas on cost saving strategies, and greater profitability. Not all attorneys are great businessmen. But today, practicing law is big business, and if you need help managing your practice, or perhaps just need a fresh start after years of bad habits, consider outsourcing. Your manager or administrator can depend on an outsource provider to coach and teach so that your bottom line counts, while you stay on top.

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