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Professional IT Procurement for Law Firms – An Easy to Implement Model

January 21, 2013

Much has been written recently about how law firms are seeking to ‘professionalise’ their support functions as just one stream in their attempt to be more successful in an increasingly competitive landscape.

IT spend is a significant part of nearly all law firms’ annual budget – whether capex or revex – and large procurement exercises (cloud, outsourcing, mobile computing environments etc.) are also on the increase.

Having a simple, properly established procurement process is an important part of making the ‘back office’ more effective and efficient.  Professional procurement is (relatively) easy to implement and not only will it bring the more obvious cost saving benefits, it will also help to demonstrate effective management as part of the overall compliance picture and help to manage your business risk profile.

So – have a policy, communicate and enforce it!  Obvious I know, but I wonder how many have a policy and can demonstrate firm wide compliance!

Good Practice

Set out below is a template that you can adapt but includes all of the key elements of a sound procurement policy

Approach

  • Who in the firm plays what part in a procurement exercise (HR, Finance, compliance, in-house legal, IT….)?
  • Which legal obligations are addressed (data protection, sex discrimination, TUPE etc)?
  • FSA, SRA, Law society of Scotland compliance – which regulations are accounted for in this policy?
  • Ethics  – desired characteristics of suppliers, Info security & confidentiality, gifts & hospitality, personal interests.

Scope

  • Who is covered by and who is responsible for maintain the policy?
  • How does the policy affect procurement undertaken by others working on behalf of the firm?
  • How does the policy interface with other firm policies?
  • What is the value of goods or services that require competitive sourcing?

Process

  • What are the steps in the procurement process? They might be: document requirements, assess market, develop sourcing approach, execute approach, negotiate
  • Who signs off what and when (gateways)?
  • What is the governance of the procurement process?
  • SRM – Strategic Supplier Management. A separate ‘sub-policy’ to manage high value suppliers and especially those providing on-going services – to include active management and communication as well as performance reporting.
  • Payment Process – an interface here to the firm’s financial management processes.

Implementation

A RACI model might be deployed here to document implementation with respect to:

  • Management of the policy
  • Education in and communication of the policy
  • Compliance with policy
  • Monitoring of compliance
  • Facilitation of process in action
  • SRM

 Summary

In my experience most firms do some but not all of the above. With a little effort a single integrated approach can easily be implemented and will offer significant benefit in a short period.

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