Some of the detractors of outsourced and offshore legal services invariably cite quality concerns as a top issue (along with security and reliability). What is often overlooked is that the same issues of managing quality are also quite apparent in the large-scale document review operations performed domestically, as well. The challenges of onshore quality management were outlined in a recent article appearing in the ABA Journal.
The true tipping point for the offshore legal services industry will be when offshore vendors can definitively demonstrate that they are producing superior quality to comparable onshore operations.
With appropriately structured outsourced legal services and discovery engagements, superior quality is attainable as a result of the following:
• A superior talent pool (composed of better educated and more motivated personnel)
• Cost advantages (gained when offshore vendors devote resources more economically toward managing and training staff)
• Process structuring (developed when vendors leverage their service delivery knowledge of outsourced business services to legal services)
These factors can lead to quality, but often do not do justice to demonstrate quality. Perhaps the best way to compare offshore work quality is to try it out first-hand. There are a number of ways to test drive prospective offshore vendors. The most infamous demonstration being the Milbank’s blind survey which resulted with the outsourcing vendor coming out on top on all criterion as compared to the existing internal legal support department.
We have always been proponents of basing alternative legal services delivery on other factors and not simply on cost advantages alone. If the quality is not satisfactory, there are no cost savings in the long run. Furthermore, by focusing only on the cost side of the equation, law firms and in-house counsel are leaving substantial value on the table such as improved services levels, quicker response times, more flexible business models and, most importantly, better quality.