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Ed Poll
  Week of December 11, 2007

It's 11:00 p.m.–
Do You Know What Your Outsourced Services Are Doing?

In a recent column, law firm consultant John Tredennick made a most trenchant comment about legal service outsourcing: "All these (outsourced) services can be a boon to a firm of any size looking to perform more efficiently. But just because you can outsource a task doesn't necessarily mean you should. The decision whether to outsource calls both strategy and ethics into play."
Outsourcing is just another way to delegate work; appropriate delegation is another aspect of leverage; and leverage is what makes law firms more profitable. If you want to grow a practice, serve more people, or increase your personal wealth, you will need to understand and use the principles of delegation and leverage. In truth, almost every lawyer does this now—having a secretary to type, file, and do other office tasks is an elementary form of this concept.
However, managing the legal process and overseeing the quality of the work product of others is the reality of the legal profession. And this is outsourcing. In such circumstances, whether the "outsource" is someone in your office or someone in India or someone located in between, YOU, the lawyer, are still responsible for setting the strategy of the matter, the quality of the resulting work product, and the management of the entire process.
Outsourcing is not the practice of law. It's the provision of high quality, low cost legal support products for licensed attorneys. Because the work is often delivered electronically and is always produced under the firm's supervision, it is transparent to the client. That means clients rely upon their lawyer to ensure that a job is done right. In matters of governance, a lawyer's responsibility for his or her own firm is magnified by the requirements of the profession's rules of professional conduct. In my home state of California, for example, State Bar Rule 5.1 provides that partners and other lawyers with managerial authority in a law firm are personally responsible when other lawyers in the firm violate the Rules.
This is a heavy burden, and one no outsourcing lawyer should take lightly. When it comes to ensuring that client work is done correctly, the buck stops with you, the lawyer—no matter who has actually done the work.

Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

Personal Commentary
Cyber Monday recently passed...and reports show online sales are ahead of last year by 15 to 20%. Buyers are shopping at the physical stores and then going online to seek better prices. Boot up and go shopping! When times get tough, the tough go shopping.
Last week I bought a great camera—a new model from a high quality brand. I couldn't believe the difference in the pricing between what I saw in the store and the price of a reputable online operation (which, by the way, has a physical store in New York). And my wife says she will buy everything online this year in order to avoid the long lines and surly service in stores.
Is there an ethical issue in this circumstance? What are the ethics of using the service of a store, determining what you want, and then buying online because of a price differential? Is there any difference between this circumstance and comparing pricing among various stores?
There are barely two weeks left to go in the holiday shopping season. I anticipate more reports that show my wife and I are just two of millions taking advantage of the 21st century's answer to bargain shopping.
Best wishes,
Ed Poll

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

What Readers Are Saying...
"I look at Ed as my business partner now—my once-a-week essential business meeting to take the pulse of my practice. During our one-hour phone conversations, we hash out the larger and smaller business challenges of my law firm. I always come away from those conversations enlarged, challenged, and sometimes even quite shaken, but with the tools necessary to move forward down the path he and I are constantly redefining for me and my firm."
-AL, Northern California

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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