[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.
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.