One of the biggest and most active areas for outsourcing today, is the legal area. The outsourcing of legal services is called Legal Process outsourcing, or LPO. The primary target for LPO is legal firms and the legal departments in corporations. Many of you may think, “Wait a second! Lawyers belong to a licensed profession. You MUST be a lawyer to do certain things, like being paid to represent someone in court. You can’t outsource these functions to people who aren’t lawyers, can you?” No, you can’t! The “legal” functions, those which can only be performed by lawyers, are not part of LPO. Instead, LPO is all about the things that lawyers do that don’t require a lawyer. The amount of non-legal functions performed by lawyer is huge!
First, let’s start with outsourcing that isn’t even a part of legal functions. Law firms and legal department operate very much the same way that other departments and firms operate. They have copy centers, phone operators, IT support and numerous other functions that may be run internally or are outsourced. However, these are not specifically legal functions. You can have outsourcing in a legal firm without any LPO work. On the other end of the scale, we have true legal work: representing clients in court, providing legal opinion, approving final drafts of contracts and legal documents. LPO work is everything that’s left. That includes:
Ediscovery: Ediscovery is the process of identifying, collecting, reading and categorizing documents related to a law suit. As documents have become electronic, the number of documents in a review has grown dramatically. As the number of documents has risen, so too has the cost. That’s why ediscovery has been such an active area of outsourcing. As the number of cases and the number of related documents continues to rise, the legal world has been looking for a more cost-effective alternative. Some ediscovery outsourcing has utilized less experienced lawyers, legally trained students who have not yet passed the bar exam, and individuals with paralegal experience. Near shore options have also been found in less expensive domestic locations. More recently lawyers have been used in India, the Philippines and other locations to perform ediscovery work. Contracts: While lawyers should review any complex or custom contract, early drafts and even full contracts of a standard nature can be developed by non-lawyers, and can be outsourced.
Legal Writing: Law is about documents. Pleadings, briefs, and memorandum are a big part of the work in any legal group or firm. The document not only needs to be created, but they need to be mailed, emailed and filed in document management systems, etc.
Summary: Certain documents, like depositions, are produced in large numbers and need to be summarized. At the summarization stage, it’s more about good writing than legal skills, and that’s why paralegals and similar individuals can excel in this function.
Research: During legal work there is a need for all sorts of research. Locating names and addresses, finding articles, locating information on real estate titles, looking up cases and proving that information to lawyers are all necessary functions, but functions that can be outsourced.
Scheduling: As legal cases move forward there are many internal meetings, client's meetings and meetings with officers of the court. As more and more individuals make their calendars available through electronic scheduling systems, this function is becoming increasingly suited to outsourcing. The world of legal outsourcing will continue to grow as long as the cost of legal services continues to rise. As America continues to be the most litigious nation in the world, it’s safe to say that we are all going to hear more about LPO as time goes on!