2/17/11

PSLs in the US – A Way Forward

[Note: This is part three of a three-part guest-series on Practice Support Lawyers (PSL) and the emergence of PSLs in the United States from our guest-blogger, Ian Nelson.]

PSLs in the US – A Way Forward
So how should US firms adapt and refine the PSL model?  The UK experience has shown that large numbers of PSLs are not the answer.  A team that is too small but expected to create everything inhouse does not have the bandwidth to make a meaningful impact.

The PSL role should be less about creating standard, or generic, resources, and more about focusing on firm-specific materials and expertise.  The ideal situation is for firms to outsource the standard materials, for PSLs to focus on firm-specific materials and expertise and for technology to provide the most efficient way to search for and categorize the content.

Of course, many firms have stories of trying to create standard resources.  However, most partner feedback I’ve heard is that these projects fall apart when deals heat up and it is difficult to get senior lawyers to dedicate the necessary time.  Without a sufficient number of professionals dedicated to this on a daily basis, the reality is that it won’t get done.

The ideal PSLs are senior attorneys who are known and respected by their practice group that act as knowledge brokers and thought leaders.  The attorneys have someone to whom they can download their deal knowledge and the PSLs are able to recognize what’s worth recycling back around to the group. The PSLs can also identify the best memos their group is preparing and turn these into enduring products for the group.  Ultimately, the PSLs sit at the heart of the group they support.

Summary
The PSL role is growing in importance in the US as the old way of doing things is gone forever.  To maximize the success and efficiency of the PSL, US firms should take a close look at the UK model and how it developed to apply those lessons from the word go.

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2 comments:

Mikethelawstudent said...

This kind of thing is just not practical for small firms which provide services for local clients with relatively small problems. But even in the small firms you recycle whatever forms and memo's you can.

Mike

KANSAS LAWYER

Ian Nelson said...

Thanks, Mike. That is a good point. Considerations are often very different for small firms. Both economically and from a content perspective.

As you point out there is a lot of recycling of forms and memos and attorneys at small firms have very limited time to keep these materials up-to-date. A good outsourced solution often makes a lot of sense in the small firm environment so that the lawyers can have a deep collection of materials. The trick is to make sure that the resources you purchase reflect the needs of the particular practice. If you do find the right solution though, it can transform the efficiency of your firm and make it more competitive, especially when up against larger firms with more resources at their disposal.

 

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