InformationWeek recently reported on a very interesting turn of events in the outsourcing arena. The article titled U.S. To Train 3,000 Offshore IT Workers states that the Obama administration has launched a $36 million program to train workers, including 3,000 IT specialists and related functions in South Asia. Following the training, workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the regions that provide offshore services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent’s low labour costs.
Clearly there are two ways to look at this. You can either view this as an inappropriate use of public funds. Or, you could view this as a bold move to bolster the skills of offshore resources — for the benefit of American companies.
On the local front, the CBA is hosting the Sixth Annual Canadian Bar Association Law Firm Leadership Conference on November 22nd and 23rd at the Park Hyatt, Toronto. The conference is aimed at managing partners and up-and-coming law firm leaders in Canada. Of particular interest will be the session on Unbundled Work/Unbridled Success: Sourcing Canadian Legal Services Differently. One of the featured speakers is Professor Richard Susskind, an internationally renowned legal academic, CBA Special Adviser, and best-selling author of Transforming the Law and The End of Lawyers?.
Professor Susskind has challenged law firms and corporate counsel to recognize the market pull towards the commoditization of legal services and to consider what parts of their legal work can be sourced differently. He has recommended that legal work be broken into tasks and that routine repetitive tasks be sourced in the most efficient way, whether by outsourcing, subcontracting, leasing, open-sourcing, or computerizing.
For some time now, corporate lawyers have understood the value proposition of LPO services. They have been the early adopters of these services. Law firms, notoriously slow to change, are now starting to feel that “market pull” that Professor Susskind refers to.
Outsourcing remains a contentious issue. However, in the words of David B. Wilkins, director of Harvard Law School’s program on the legal profession, “This is not a blip, this is a big historical movement. There is an increasing pressure by clients to reduce costs and increase efficiency.” With companies already familiar with outsourcing tasks like information technology work to India, legal services is a natural next step.