Legal futurist Richard Susskind presented one of the most highly anticipated talks at this year’s Clio Cloud Conference. Susskind identified three drivers of change, and the future of law in the legal industry: more for less; liberalization; and technology. When addressing the idea of more for less, Susskind identified two strategies: efficiency and collaboration.
Although he briefly defined the collaboration strategy, Susskind focused on the efficiency strategy. Litigators can approach efficiency in two ways. First, they can develop more efficient processes within their own firms. Practice management tools like Clio assist in this streamlining. Some lawyers may resist, or perhaps more accurately, fail to prioritize—this kind of change. Most lawyers would agree that (at least in principle) process efficiency is a worthy goal. The second way litigators can become more efficient is to decompose matters into their component tasks.
The component tasks Susskind identified include document review; legal research; project management; litigation support; electronic disclosure; strategy; tactics; negotiation; and advocacy. Decomposing matters in this way allows litigators to outsource some tasks to specialized providers, who can perform those tasks not only more cost-effectively, but also (as Nicole Bradick pointed out during her Agile Staffing session) often at a higher quality than if the task was performed in-house.
Decomposition and outsourcing require a more significant change in mindset than just process efficiency. Many lawyers today actively resist this change because they see it as a threat to revenue. Properly implemented, outsourcing can boost revenue. Doing so allows the outsourcing lawyer to use the time that otherwise would have been spent on the outsourced task to focus on providing high-value services on the same or other matters, or to bring new business into the firm.
Clio’s Lawyer-in-Residence, Joshua Lenon, also points out that in addition to doing high-value, actual legal work, lawyers that outsource can still make revenue off of the outsourced work. Rule 5.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct actually requires lawyer oversight of any non-lawyer assistant—so if you outsource legal work, you still have to make sure it is done correctly.
In the ABA Ethics Opinion 08-451, the ABA found that it is perfectly acceptable for a lawyer to charge a reasonable fee for the time they spend on oversight of outsourced work. This means that not only can you get rid of the grunt work, you can get paid for doing so. Because clients are increasingly demanding more for less, it’s imperative for litigators to maximize their efficiency via internal process changes and decomposition/outsourcing: your firm’s survival competitive edge on it.
Guest blogger Lisa Solomon was one of the first lawyers to recognize and take advantage of the technological advances that make outsourcing legal research and writing services practical and profitable for law firms of all sizes.
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