Tuesday, March 30, 2010

EMRG Conference Overview

This past week I had the pleasure of speaking at the EMRG conference at the United Oxford and Cambridge University Club in London.

The event featured a number of prominent speakers in the legal outsourcing community including several experts written about in the case studies of our Implementing a Successful Legal Outsourcing Engagement book, Richard Reade, general counsel of ISS, and Nigel Kissack of Pinsent Masons, both pioneers in their respective outsourcing endeavours, gave informative and engaging presentations.

The conference was both well-attended and well-received. I spoke on the topics of engagement structures, vendor selection and cultural considerations.

The overall disposition of the conference was that legal outsourcing is not an exclusive solution, but is rather one of many effective approaches available to law firms and general counsel as they seek to provide increased value for their legal services.

Monday, March 29, 2010

UK Expansion

This past week saw another noteworthy advance in the UK legal outsourcing market. UnitedLex officially launched their first public UK engagement with the UK-based telecom BT. UnitedLex will effectively take over the BT Indian-based captive legal team. According to the release, 15 UnitedLex lawyers will, “handle commercial contracting and antitrust regulation work for BT's offices in the UK, the US, India, Singapore and Hong Kong. The team will be based in Gurgaon, India.”

I had the pleasure of speaking along side Ajay Agrawal, UnitedLex Chief Solutions Officer, this week at the ERMG conference.

This announcement of UnitedLex’s official launch in the UK reflects the accuracy of our findings in the 2010 Global Sourcing Study that 88% of legal outsourcing vendors plan to increase their focus on the UK in the coming year(www.fronterion.com/globalsourcing2010). “Aggressive” expansion plans were also noted in the Law Gazette this week in an article about headcount projections from several major legal outsourcing vendors.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Indian Writ Compliant Filed

Something that was simmering below the surface for the past week finally erupted into the mainstream legal press on Friday in a feature by LegalWeek.

It was first reported by in The Hindu and then Bar & Bench, that the Association of Indian Lawyers filed a writ petition with in the Madras High Court alleging that international law firms were “using visitor visa(s) thereby violating immigration norms,” which India laws ban foreign-based law legal firms from entering and operating in India. To date this has not included legal outsourcing operations by international law firms such that legal outsourcing engagements are structured as only providing “legal support” services.

The only LPO vendor cited in the writ petition was Integreon, who swiftly offered their official statement, stating the allegations were “without merit.” No official statements from any of the other major law firm respondents have been released to date.

It does seem a bit peculiar that India, with an economy which is driven largely by it’s attractiveness as a professional services outsourcing destination, would seek to enforce blatantly protectionist measures. Ironically, similar protectionist measures debated in the US have been largely criticised by the Indian government and business community.

I have delayed comment on the petition because I am not sure about the ancillary implications on the legal outsourcing industry. Off the record, most major law firms cited as respondents seem to think the writ petition will not be a major issue such that allegations are not reflective of the work being performed in India. For the time being, however, all respondents seem to be taking the proceedings seriously. Further, per my personal interactions, most firms cited in the petition have not been deterred from advancing their outsourcing initiative plans. Lines have also been drawn linking the writ petition to the Newman McIntosh & Hennessey case* which was readily withdraw shortly after filing in 2008.

In addition to the protectionist notions of the writ petition, Indian law firms may also be partially reacting to increased competition from LPO’s who are recruiting more of India’s qualified lawyers.

More to follow as the petition proceeds.

*Newman McIntosh & Hennessey vs. Bush, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in May 2008 (Civ. No. 08-00787 [CKK] [D.D.C]). The lawsuit alleged that offshoring legal work constituted a waiver of the attorney-client privilege and Fourth Amendment protection, since data sent overseas may be subject to eavesdropping by the US government such as that permitted by the USA Patriot Act. In particular, the complaint alleged that, “This waiver of rights would nullify the reasonable expectation of privacy that American citizens — litigating purely domestic disputes in U.S. Courts — would have in the documents that they produce in the course of civil litigation.” The lawsuit was withdrawn by the plaintiff firm only days after the ABA issued its outsourcing opinion, endorsing the practice of outsourcing. To date, no further litigation has been forthcoming in the US challenging the legality of legal outsourcing. – Implementing a Successful Legal Outsourcing Engagement (fronterion.com/book/)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Law Firm Evolution

This week I had the pleasure of attending one of the most forward-thinking conferences on the legal outsourcing industry - Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business as Usual?

The conference was hosted by the Georgetown Law School in Washington, DC. The conference provided a very unique mix of academic and practitioner perspectives on a host of hot-button issues impacting the legal profession.

The general consensus shared among the conference attendees and presenters alike was that the legal industry is changing significantly. What remained up for discussion, with often spirited debate, were the implications of these changes and methods to address a changing legal landscape. Two reoccurring themes throughout the conference that stood out to me personally were the surprising levels and swiftness of globalization of the legal profession and the far-reaching implications of the forthcoming implementation of the Legal Services Act in the UK.

Presenters included major international and Magic Circle senior leadership, general counsel from large international corporations, legal outsourcing vendors and prominent academics. One of the most notable speakers on the agenda was Richard Susskind.

Conference proceedings included coverage by the National Law Journal and the Posse List

Philippines Contending

While the Philippines has not exhibited quite the level of growth of legal outsourcing as geographies such as India and South Africa, the Philippines remain a strong contender for offshore legal talent. An interesting release by the Outsourcing Portfolio outlined some of the advantages of the Philippines, which for some areas directly translated into competitive advantages for outsourced legal service delivery.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Global Sourcing Study: The Lawyer Feature

The previously announced 2010 Global Sourcing Study was featured as the lead story of The Lawyer. Recognizing legal outsourcing opportunities from around the world – both on and offshore – is clearly of interest to a broad number of legal professionals.

We are very excited about the informed approach taken by The Lawyer article.

2010 Global Sourcing Release

Fronterion is proud to announce the release of the 2010 Global Sourcing Study: A Globalised Profession and Multi-Shore Delivery of Legal Services Study. The complete study is available by contacting the following: GlobalSourcing@fronterion.com

In summary, findings clearly show significant growth in the onshore legal outsourcing delivery market as well as increased interest from law firms and clients.

In undertaking this study we sought to answer two fundamental, but compelling questions regarding onshore legal outsourcing delivery:
1. Is there a new career path available for today’s law graduates outside of pursuing jobs at traditional law firms?
2. What is the viability of the onshore legal outsourcing market?

What we discovered about this small, but fast-growing onshore outsourcing industry – in which law firms and in-house legal departments send work to specialised delivery centers in the United Kingdom or United States, rather than India, South Africa, etc. – is the importance of a compete and thorough review of all legal resources available to law firms today.

For a number of reasons, the study includes a strong focus on onshore UK legal markets. As such, the survey polled executives from 17 of the largest global outsourcing providers, as well as ten of the 20 largest UK law firms.

The results of the 2010 Global Sourcing Study revealed that approximately 300 full-time lawyers and legal professionals are currently at work in delivery centres in Scotland, Wales and the Southwest of England. Of the top 17 global vendors, 10% of their legal delivery staff is based in the UK.

The onshore industry remains a small part of a larger trend toward offshore outsourcing, but it is certainly something that we expect to grow significantly as legal outsourcing continues to attract attention from law firms and large corporations. Consequently, this change will lead to new opportunities for legal professionals in the UK and the US.

Some 75% of outsourcing vendor executives surveyed by Fronterion said at least some of their clients had expressed an interest in onshore delivery, while 24% of vendor respondents reported a significant number of their clients were interested in onshore delivery. A further 82% of outsourcers said their clients were interested in hybrid solutions – a combination of onshore and offshore outsourcing – with over 41% of outsourcers reporting a significant interest in the hybrid-shore delivery model.

More information is available on the Fronterion website at www.Fronterion.com/2010GlobalSourcing

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Magic Circle… [Poof] Gone?

Eversheds recently released study findings that found “over half of all clients think that the magic circle designation is redundant, with 94 per cent of them arguing that the profession should reclassify its peer groups.”

We certainly agree that significant pressure exists on law firms regardless of their designation as “Magic” or not*. As a result, clients are often more prone to “value-shop” law firms, but venerable designations such as the Magic Circle die hard and bet-the-house legal work from large corporates will still typically flow to these major law firms. Are all bets off with the forthcoming implementation of the Legal Services Act? No one knows.

These issues of reputation of law firms are addressed by Larry Ribstien, author of the controversial yet thought-provoking Death of Big Law. Ribstien notes in his recent publication that the only thread of stability binding major law firms together is by their “reputational capital.” Law firms cannot maintain intellectual property, it is no competitive advantage to hold hard assets and human capital can quite literally walk out the door at any time. He purports that the only assets held by large law firms is their reputation or reputational capital.

*Magic Circle law firms in the UK include: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and
Slaughter & May

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Conference Round Up

Legal and legal outsourcing conferences seem to be abounding both in the UK and Stateside.

Georgetown Law School’s Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business as Usual?: Occurring March 21st through March 23rd. The conference features a unique amalgamation of academics, law firm leadership, general counsel and legal industry thought-leaders.

EMRG LPO Masterclass: Hosted in London on March 25th. I will be speaking on a panel dealing with a number of topics including engagement structures, vendor selection and cultural issues as they relate to ensuring successful legal outsourcing engagements. Fellow panelists include Mark Lewis of BLP and Mark Ford of Clifford Chance.

The Lawyer Conference: In a yet to be confirmed location in London on June 17th. The Lawyer Conference always draws strong interest, particularly amoungst the major city firms.

C5’s Conference Legal Process Outsourcing – The Latest Drivers, Issues and Solutions Considering LPO as Part of Your Wider Legal Costs Management: Hosted June 29th and 30th at the Sofitel St. James Hotel in London.

I have also been invited to present on a host of issues that relate to legal outsourcing at the C5 conference which include but are not limited to managing legal outsourcing vendor relationships, recognizing legal outsourcing opportunities, and ensuring quality of the legal deliverable. The conference has quite an impressive cadre of speakers (myself excluded) from both major City firms and UK corporates.