The Lawyer magazine reports today that the elite "magic circle" UK law firm, Slaughter & May, despite the firm's "absolute lack of appetite" for legal outsourcing, "has drawn up a three-strong panel of legal process outsourcing (LPO) providers it would be willing to work with should clients demand the firm finds ways to do work more cheaply." In an editorial, "Crossing the LPO Rubicon," the magazine goes on to conclude that the news "seems to be proof that outsourcing is here to stay." According to the main article, by Luke McLeod-Roberts, legal outsourcing providers CPA Global and Exigent are on the Slaughter & May short list:
The news comes after Slaughters, which is understood to be reluctant to outsource work on a large scale, sent out some data room work following a request from a client, understood to be Carillion (The Lawyer, 5 October 2009).
Corporate finance partner William Underhill, who was involved in setting up the new panel, told The Lawyer: “In the past we have on a couple of occasions used one provider to do data room support on M&A matters and that’s worked. As a result of that we’ve had an internal project to see where we have other process work that could be outsourced.
“We’ve surveyed the market and talked to people about what they can do and we’ve got a shortlist of potential providers.
“There are many professional organisations that have invested money in quality control and they’re all capable of delivering an acceptably good product. The choice over whether we outsource work, and how, would be the result of a discussion with clients.”
Underhill also rejected claims that engaging in outsourcing work might hinder quality control or damage the firm’s elite brand.
“Any risk to our brand may be dealt with if we’re seen to be thoughtful about it, have gone through the process and clients have understood the quality involved,” he commented. “For us this is about helping clients get the right solution. There’ll be a range of solutions in terms of how much they want to be involved with the provider.”
However, according to the article, an undisclosed source "is sceptical as to whether this would result in any work for the shortlisted [legal outsourcing / legal KPO] providers":
“[Slaughters] has absolutely no appetite for it,” the source said. “These guys advised on the financial crisis. They want to be able to say they’re doing something [to offer lower-cost solutions] if someone approaches them. But for super-premium work general counsel don’t care about price.”