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Why is IT outsourcing becoming increasingly inevitable in the Legal Sector?

September 4, 2014

I have been involved in seven IT outsourcing exercises in the past two years or so. Four of those in the Legal Sector. Five of the seven were directly aimed at securing access to required technology skills – or looking at it another way, mitigating the risk associated with attracting and retaining key technology staff.

My hypothesis is that there just isn’t enough skill to go around and that (in a simple example) an outsourcer with a SOC (Service Operations Centre) staffed with good people, strong process and best tools can manage the server estate of ten average size law firms with a staff of eight or ten (say) when each of the ten law firms may need three each.   This is a simplistic example to make the point that when resource is scarce then shared and optimised resourcing is obvious, inevitable and unavoidable.

But why now?

Because the importance of IT and the complexity of the deployed technologies have grown very rapidly in just three years. Look at the advent of IT in law firms. A while ago it was back office functions, then came DMS and PMS and integration with email and office etc. That was manageable. Then there is a need for lawyers to work from home – Citrix, VPN etc. Then Martini computing – anytime, anyplace any device. The breadth of technologies and the ability to control the infrastructure is really starting to stretch out. Add social media and BYOD and it’s stretching even further.

Once you add in the need for customer portals where clients access firms systems to review WIP etc then you have further dimensions. This completes the journey – back office, front office and now it’s (part of) the product we sell.

Almost overnight, IT doesn’t just support the delivery of legal services  – IT is actually part of the service itself!

So IT is critical to the ability to sell and deliver service– to the success of the firm.

The breadth and complexity of the technologies deployed are now light years away from where they were ten years ago.

Gartner reckons that a law firm with a £20M turnover may have an IT budget of £800K. It may spend £300K on staff and so may employ 8 or 9 heads. Managing an infrastructure with server operating systems, virtualisation, database systems, networking components, desktops, laptops, tablets, handhelds, core DMS, PMS and email applications. Handling security, remote working, system performance and capacity, linkedin/facebook/twitter, Big Data as well as 400 Help Desk tickets a month, 7*24 and a growing and urgent project portfolio!!

Well no wonder they are stressed.

How can an outsourcer help?

Law firms struggle to offer good IT people progression. When good people leave they are difficult to replace. Good IT people are scarce and the mid market in particular is suffering as large corporates are similarly growing their IT functions.

Further, in many cases law firms just don’t have strong enough IT management discipline – project management, system management, service management, task management – to handle the rapidly escalating complexity and hugely increasing demand for service and projects

A good outsourcer should be able to offer a far better (SLA based) service, with vastly reduced people/skill related risk at a price no greater than an in house solution. On that basis it’s a case of why not?

Two last points:

If everybody outsources will IT become a commodity? Well no, because managing the outsourcer is a skill and doing that well will put you ahead in quality of service. More importantly always retain control of the Portfolio – the discretionary spend which is aimed at building the firm – optimise this i line with the firms objectives and you will really win against your competitors. And of course there are a myriad of outsourcing options – just server estate, just apps dev, overnight Service Desk and so on and so on…

Finding a good outsourcer is not easy. There are many new entrants into this world of outsourcing. They may have backgrounds in hardware sales, data centres, hardware maintenance, technology consulting and others… There are however very few who have the maturity of process and management and who really have the breadth and depth to go across the growing technology landscape.


Anyway – the requirement for skill is continuing to increase and the availability is decreasing. Outsourcing is looking increasingly the answer.




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