Opportunity Missed?

There’s an article today in the ABA Journal regarding a survey of the 50 largest law firms in the U.S. and their use of outsourced legal services.

The only eye-popping numbers you’ll see in the survey results, however, are that 83% of the law firms surveyed declined to participate. The surveyors cite ethical and proprietary business concerns about law firms admitting the use of contract or outsourced attorneys, but in reality this is the fine line firms feel they must walk concerning their image. To be sure, Big Law has taken its lumps in the press during the last couple of years and they probably don’t see much that can be gained by participating in a survey like this.

But here’s what we’ve been hearing and seeing in meeting after meeting with hundreds of corporate legal departments in recent months: 1) they have demanded that their law firms outsource work like e-discovery, due diligence, contracts, patents and many other labor-intensive matters, or 2) they have partnered with law firms who have proactively brought outsourced solutions to them and ended relationships with law firms that haven’t been so forward-thinking.

It's also worth mentioning that we’ve also met and worked with a large number of top law firms in the last year, and call several of the AmLaw 100 some of our best clients -- and a handful have been with us for nearly a decade.

So while the survey results might not be that surprising, it does seem like an opportunity lost for firms who are constantly trying to gain market share and differentiate for their competition. Orrick, for one, has been very outspoken on their plans to utilize contract attorneys. While its “associate track” model is still in its early stages, it appears a promising – and differentiating – model that speaks not only to the needs of clients, but to the ever-changing needs of the attorney workforce.

At some point in the not-too-distant-future, none of this will be an issue... it will simply be part of the business that large chunks of legal work are outsourced (even though that’s the case already -- but shhhhh).
 

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