Since the onset of the unprecedented global health emergency last year, the legal industry has been challenged to adapt to a new reality of timekeeper support services. Some in the AmLaw were proactive, but many lagged behind their peers in other professional services firms like accounting, consulting and financial services. To make matters worse, corporate budgets have taken a hit and the rising cost of litigation is being scrutinized. Buyers of legal services are more frequently asking their firm of choice how they plan on reducing operating costs.
The optimal solution, now, is balancing traditional firm culture with getting work done in the most efficient way possible. To do this right, collaborating with offsite support partners and building a “virtual reality” is the only path forward.
Over the last decade, the professional services sector (finance, accounting, consulting and legal) began developing partnerships with Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) providers, or in some cases, began the process of building their own service centers across the globe. Outsourceable tasks were frequently limited to repeatable work (word processing, billing support, etc.) or onsite managed services that are difficult to staff (copy center, mail room, etc.).
Today, law firm management teams are drawing inspiration from others in the professional services industry who have traditionally taken a more aggressive approach toward resource management. Due to culture changes industry-wide and COVID-related business decisions, firms are waking up to the fact that work can be done anywhere as there are experienced providers in the industry who excel at supporting fee-earners on a 24/7 basis.
This is no longer limited to repeatable work and now includes higher-level tasks such as marketing, overflow secretarial support and collections.
Today more than ever, law firms are attempting to redefine the “Legal Secretary of the Future” with the help of strategic BPO partnerships. Instead of reorganizing the hierarchy of administrative professionals across a firm to focus on “who” should be doing low-level support work internally, administrative leaders are turning their attention toward “what” these professionals should be focusing their time on.
In short, this means a greater concentration of high-level, client facing tasks for in-house support staff with a BPO provider tending to the day-to-day administrative grind that normally fills the day of a firm’s most valuable resources.
BPOs offer access to a wide-variety of business enablement services as subject matter experts in administrative tasks. This, along with best-practice sharing across like-minded accounts and contracted service level agreements to maintain quality, helps to form a more holistic management agreement with legal firms.
As the industry continues to “re-open”, it does so in a world that has changed. In the new virtual workplace, the challenges of tracking the productivity and utilization of resources will continue to be everyone’s top priority. The lessons learned during the pandemic should serve as a conduit for long-term change and increased efficiencies across the entire legal ecosystem.