During the last year Global Legal has spoken to many legal department and law firm clients who have retained Legal Process Outsourcing (“LPO”) firms. At the end of each engagement there are often lessons learned that may prove useful for other practitioners as they evaluate potential engagements. One question we have asked many clients is, “What advice would you provide to others beginning the process of evaluating LPO vendors?” The responses do not represent a comprehensive list of items to consider, but items that were unexpectedly useful or more important than anticipated.
- “Look for a company with U.S. attorneys on the ground wherever the work is done.”
U.S. trained and experienced attorneys are important to delivery team because they (a) provide training to workers who generally do not have experience with western legal systems, (b) facilitate communication between offshore teams and clients through common experiences with each party, and (c) act as an overall quality control by reviewing work product to make sure that their training and communication functions have been implemented successfully.
- “Look for documented decision and quality assurance processes that the vendor will share with clients.”
Particularly for tasks such as document and contract review, there can be significant variation in the results produced by individual workers. Law firms have traditionally mitigated this problem by using young, very talented lawyers who are well educated in western legal systems and directly supervised by highly experienced practitioners. Where work is outsourced, well-defined decision and quality processes are critical to LPO workers who generally do not have western legal training or experience. Requiring a vendor to illustrate that it has documented decision and quality assurance processes will help assure a consistent quality work product.
- “Be diligent in checking references.”
If the logic of checking references is not obvious on its own, consider the ABA Comm. on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Formal Opinion 08-451 (2008) which states in part:
“At a minimum, a lawyer outsourcing services for ultimate provision to a client should consider conducting reference checks and investigating the background of the lawyer or nonlawyer providing the services…”
Global Legal is aware of one vendor that provides a client list naming at least one client that will not say positive things about it, so it is important to actually talk to references.
- “Be prepared to thoroughly review the work of the vendor, particularly at the initial stages of the engagement.”
Clients are ultimately responsible for the legal work that will be based on an LPO vendor’s work product. At least until the client is confident that he/she is consistently receiving adequate work product from the vendor, thorough reviews are required.
- “Review the pricing carefully. Some vendors charge separately for quality reviews, and some of the most expensive resources are quality reviewers.”
Exercise the parameters of the pricing quote provided by the vendor. Make sure to clarify what tasks are included in a given price. If an estimate for the total project has not been provided (it should have been), calculate the total expected cost and then determine how much it will vary based on changes to the various pricing drivers. This step should be part of any project management methodology.
Again, these steps alone are not enough to select a vendor, but they do provide useful insights to various parts of the process.
Red Bridge Strategy is an independent firm offering consulting and advisory services to corporations and law firms evaluating legal process optimization, globalization and outsourcing. The company does not provide outsourcing services, nor is it affiliated with any outsourcing providers. Matthew Sullivan is a principal at Red Bridge Strategy, Inc.