Many law firms, no matter the size, have at one point struggled with the concept of outsourcing their office support services. Whether they are grappling with how to monitor an outsourcing provider or the challenge of how to decide on moving to an outsourced solution, firm administrators continue to feel pressure to get their office support functions under control. Outsourcing is the practice of building a partnership with an organization which can provide subject matter expertise with quality people and extraordinary service to perform noncore functions of your business to help it run smoothly. Note the key word in this definition of outsourcing is “partnership.” As a partner, the outsourcing provider will share in your organizational goals and work with you to achieve them. A partnership also invokes relationship building as a primary aspect of success. But how do you know if outsourcing is right for your firm? How do you know you are partnering with the best company for your needs? Here are some considerations when looking for the right partner for your firm.
What operations are firms considering outsourcing?
Firms are outsourcing a variety of office support functions. Mail center operations, print and copy centers, records and document management centers, hospitality and even front desk reception are all areas to consider. Outsourcing of litigation support functions is a growing trend, whether that includes having the outsourcing partner provide an on-site project manager to coordinate work utilizing appropriate technology or filtering all litigation support for e-discovery to your partner’s off-site facility. Either method is designed to help defray the cost of building the in-house infrastructure for litigation support and e-discovery, as these costs can be tremendous as firms move into developing these client services.
What other services can be included in an outsourced solution?
Many office support services providers can also manage your fleet of multifunctional devices and other equipment and software to oversee support functions. This could be providing the proper coordination of service calls for machines leased by the firm or a total managed solution where maintaining the equipment is all-inclusive within the service contract. Many times, an outsourcing provider can have greater buying power with equipment vendors based on relationships and volume spending. Having the outsourcing provider supply and manage the equipment also relieves the administrative burden of lease invoices, maintenance costs and lease expiration times, which can become troublesome when equipment needs to be refreshed and/or upgraded.
Do outsourcing options vary for firm size?
While many believe firm size is important, it isn’t as much of a determining factor as is firm culture. Where firm size would factor is in the integration of services that are performed. Smaller firms generally have integrated services handled by a few cross-trained staff members while larger firms may have segregated departments, such as a Records Management and Hospitality separate from printing and mailing. Firm culture would dictate which of these departments are best serviced through a business partner.
How can a firm considering outsourcing set itself up for success?
The greatest factor for a successful outsourcing partnership is making sure the right people are in place at your firm. Do the people on-site at your firm to perform these services have the right experience and customer service attitude to please and excite you? A firm looking to outsource office support services needs to do some research. These choices need to be made based on information going beyond just what you see in a proposal and your relationship with your sales representative. We encourage checking references, but even beyond that, talking to your industry peers about the partners you are considering. Take site tours to see their people in action. Meet with other members of the outsourcing provider staff to get a better sense of the stretch of resources it can provide. And most importantly, gain a comfort level in the person who will be supporting your operation and ensure how involved that person will be.
What is the greatest advantage of outsourcing?
There are many advantages of outsourcing, but the true added value is having a partner with integrity that really knows your business and the legal environment. Having a business partner which understands the industry of office support services while also providing resources to your firm as subject matter experts clearly gives the firm an advantage. When the outsourcing partner can effectively manage your office services responsibilities and provide cost savings and innovative solutions, it relieves the administrative burden on the firm.