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Linked: Elite Law Firms Are Quietly Outsourcing High-Value Functions. How Far Will They Go?

The entire article below is an interesting read. I think this quote from Sullivan and Cromwell’s Joe Shenker is a good place to start:

“You can’t keep up doing state-of-the-art, best-of-the-best [in technology]—which is what we try to do—doing it yourself,” Shenker says. Law firms just can’t compete with big tech companies, he says. Instead, “Let’s focus on what we’re great at and let other people focus on what they’re great at.”

I have worked in law firms, as many of you know. This is absolutely true. In many law firms the resources and expertise to do technology, and eDiscovery, and many other things simply can’t keep up with the progress of technology.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of really talented people working really hard on these tasks in law firms, but they will almost always be under-resourced.

Look at eDiscovery, for example. In my last law firm job there were two people who handled eDiscovery for the entire firm. We outsourced the hosting and other tools to a cloud vendor, for one simple reason. We didn’t have enough people to support all of that in-house. Just handling the eDiscovery work was enough, who was going to keep our review platform and SQL servers running, patched, updated, etc.? Certainly not us. So it made sense to outsource that. Someday, it may even make sense to allow that same company to just do a lot of the work too, and outsource that.

Lots of firms are moving to Office365, for similar reasons. Keeping all of that infrastructure running every day requires a whole lot of people and time. Firms can’t keep up with the large tech companies when it comes to hiring talent, keeping talent, and training talent. Why not let someone else do that?

It also seems somewhat similar to what I am doing now. We work with customers who are squeamish about hosting their data outside of their own network, or want it in a cloud environment they manage, rather than sending it to a law firm. But, they don’t have the eDiscovery expertise to manage those projects in-house.

So they can outsource that role, to us. It can be a long-term or short-term commitment. They don’t have to attract talent, manage people, or worry about retention. That’s the vendor’s problem. The vendor who can better attract talent by offering things the organization maybe couldn’t. The ability to work from anywhere in my case. Which also opens up the possibility of hiring people who live in less expensive areas and don’t require as much of a salary as well.

The outsourcing of non-legal work in the legal field is not going to stop any time soon. In many cases, it just makes too much sense. That can seem scary, but it might just open up some tremendous opportunities to the tech and other law firm staff willing to look ahead.

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