Mari Sako at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School has done some accomplished research on the legal outsourcing industry. She is one of the very few academics that I am aware of who is diving deeply into the legal outsourcing and offshoring industry.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Sako recently. Our conversations and the basis of her work are summarized well by her article in July issue of Communications of the ACM.
The article provides a very grounded perspective on the drivers and challenges of outsourced legal services. One of the most interesting topics touched on by Sako includes knowledge decomposition, which means breaking legal work into constituent components. While desirable, it is often challenging to do so effectively in practice. In particular, I enjoyed her reference to the parallels of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management since many function areas of professional services are standardized and can be broken down into the basic process and knowledge components.
We agree that managing the knowledge breakdown is a challenging component of all types of outsourcing engagements, particularly complex knowledge-driven processes such as legal services. These challenges can be overcome through planning, foresight and appropriate time and resource investment to ensure the best transitions when outsourcing.