Overseas Outsourcing – Should I?

Outsourcing of both legal and support work is becoming an accepted part of practice.

Semi-retired practitioners, stay at home mums, and others provide flexible reasonable cost work for firms looking to reduce permanent overheads. Overseas outsourcing is also well established, with some rates on offer being very low – providing a potential opportunity for firms (particularly in commoditised price sensitive areas of practice) to further manage practice costs downwards.

Providers are easily accessible through online searches. In our judgement, the descriptions of capabilities can be a little hyperbolic, so it is a matter of working through several providers around the particular services you are looking for. If you can, try to locate other practitioners who have already tried outsourcing and discuss the pitfalls and benefits with them.

Here are some general guidelines.

  • Firstly, where the services form part of the legal service (i.e., they are not simply stenographic) remember that as the legal practitioner you remain liable for the quality of the work.
  • Secondly, take lots of time making a decision about a provider.
  • Get submissions and where possible work samples from a range of firms.

Don’t be drawn just to the lowest prices. There is a wide range of pricing and a wide range of quality.

Most importantly, KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT and encapsulate it in a very specific, step by step, project brief.

This is very much a garbage in / garbage out business. The general experience seems to have been that where the service is standardised, repeatable, and strongly rules-based, then there is a reasonably good chance of success.

However, if the work you are farming out is highly idiosyncratic and difficult to standardise, then either you should not outsource it OR prepare a brief that is highly detailed and anticipates every imaginable variation from the standard path…. AND have strong quality controls on this end.

Finally, make sure that the services link in with your local practice and employees as seamlessly as possible.

Very cheap word processing isn’t cheap at all if its unpredictability gets your lawyers into a lather and your clients let down.

Summary: It’s a fact of evolving practice, but remember – every additional hour you spend in fine tuning and testing your brief will probably save you 5 – 10 times that in sorting out a poorly designed and untested mess at the other end.


Published: Queensland Law Society – Proctor, May 2014 (p. 61)


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