In a lot of industries, companies can outsource work by seeking out somewhere with a lower cost of living and exploiting a little wage arbitrage to skim a few bucks off the bottom line. Legal work, alas, is not widget-building and requires a bit more from an outsourced workforce than those other industries. And for the first time, it seems like companies have realized that quality outsourcing looks a lot more like… I don’t know… “midsourcing.”
“Buyers need to feel like these people are an extended part of the team. People who know your pain points, your culture, and how you work,” Gabriel Buigas, Executive Vice President at Integreon and head of its Contracts, Compliance, and Commercial Services business unit. And while Buigas has preached this to clients for years, he sees it really happening now. “The buyer has gotten way more sophisticated. More and more buyers just want to see the people they want to work with day-to-day. To see real depth. People are learning that some companies are great at selling but delivery is a different animal.”
It’s an interesting development in a segment of the industry long shrugged off like tossing a problem over the wall. Hire someone to take on those tasks and then forget about it. Legal departments looked at cost savings and not much else. The results from an arrangement like that were… mixed.
“Outsourcing at the beginning isn’t perfect. It’s a process,” Buigas said. “If you truly partner and work with people you build confidence and they will start trusting you more and will give you more.”
Hence my admittedly half-baked term “midsourcing.” Because the ideal partner shouldn’t have the distance — philosophically, not necessarily physically — of an outsider.
Ultimately savings are an entry point for this niche of the industry, but if the vendor isn’t providing strategic value, it’s not really worth it. And it seems like companies are coming around to that prospect. Whether it’s the natural evolution of the industry or the impact of organizations like CLOC bringing the professionals making these decisions together to discuss their experiences, it’s a nice thing to see.
Because companies are increasingly looking outside for help. The mood of trade shows this year has been all about firms and companies feeling more comfortable accepting remote delivery of services in the pandemic influenced normal. Getting outsourcing right is a lot like getting tech automation right: when it’s successful it opens up a company’s lawyers to focus on the tasks they want to work on in the first place. And in an era of widespread job dissatisfaction, helping lawyers do the strategic tasks they were brought in to perform makes a big difference in retention.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.