|Image [cc] Richard Aird
[Editor Note: Please welcome guest blogger, Deborah Schwarz, CEO and Founder, LAC Group. Since we know there has been a lot of talk about outsourcing in library services, we thought it would be interesting to get Deb’s perspective on what she hears from the business side of Managed Services for law libraries. So our thanks to Deb for giving us five things she hears, but thinks are misperceptions when it comes to Law Library Outsourcing. – Greg Lambert]
Do you adopt a greater self-serve information model and risk overwhelming attorneys and staff who are running lean and mean already? How do you balance the cost and complexity of information technology and information resources to gain the benefits of automation and access? How do you optimize information to help satisfy existing clients while attracting new ones?
Although outsourcing has come a long way in terms of acceptance and understanding, some apprehensions and misconceptions persist. To that end, I want to debunk five myths about outsourcing, based on questions we get asked most frequently by law firm management. And I want to finish by turning the spotlight on important benefits of outsourcing that often take a back seat to the ‘usual suspects’ of efficiency and cost savings.
As for cost savings, I would like to begin by saying that outsourcing isn’t always cheaper, at least not in the short run, because of simple and obvious economics—the cost of severance and because the outsourcing company doesn’t work for free! There will be a management fee in addition to absorbing the cost of the outsourced staff’s compensation, including benefits as well as “grandfathered” paid time off, etc. In almost every outsourcing scenario we have encountered, LAC Group has worked closely with firms to ensure that affected employees have the same or similar benefit packages and salaries.
Bottom line: Outsourcing initially costs more, but when done correctly and efficiently by the outsourcing provider, long-term fees and costs are stabilized and predictable. And it becomes the outsourcing company’s challenge and value proposition to deal and perform with fluctuations.
Yes, it can, but like any other change it can be managed and controlled. In our experience, and contrary to popular belief, law firms spend more time considering and outright worrying about the reactions and feelings within their organization than they publicly acknowledge. In the 28 years of LAC Group’s outsourcing experience, every client of ours has worked diligently to make the transition as humane and thoughtful as possible.
This may be outsourcing’s most persistent myth, but it’s not necessarily so. Outsourcing today takes many forms, which doesn’t always mean sending work to another country. In my experience, not only have we kept jobs at home, in many of the outsourcing arrangements we are involved in the work is done on site, in firm offices. Often “our” employees work seamlessly and side-by-side with firm attorneys and staff, the only difference being where the person’s paycheck comes from. Increasingly, outsourcing may involve work done virtually by individuals working from home.
In LAC Group’s experience, matching wages and continuing to provide a total compensation package with benefits is usually a condition we have to meet. While we can’t always match the scope of benefits offered by large, multinational firms, we can and do offer a competitive package. When we take over an operation or a function, matching salaries and honoring the privileges of established employees is often a condition.
Nothing is forever. No one’s position remains static year-after-year—technology and globalization have made that a truism for everyone in the work place. Working for a reputable outsourcing company is neither better nor worse as a career move than a “permanent” position within a law firm.
Often the drivers behind an outsourcing decision are to streamline operations and save money. And when the primary goal is saving money, there’s no denying that sometimes the work goes offshore to places with lower wages. Yet in my experience, even when law firms come to us seeking cost savings, other benefits end up being more desirable to them. Those benefits are expertise and agility, and I call them the ‘unsung heroes’ because they get so little public mention.
Regarding expertise, I don’t mean to imply that firm librarians are not experts. However, firms are finding it increasingly difficult and impractical to keep specialists on staff for all their information needs, which have become much more dynamic. In addition, many firms are not committed to the kind of training and development that’s needed to ensure their library staff can stay ahead in today’s big-data world.