Law Firms Look To “In-Sourcing” To Slash Costs

In an effort to cut expenses, WilmerHale has decided to “in-source” its business operations to Dayton, Ohio.  But other law firms could also benefit from relocating support staff and even attorneys to less costly locales beyond the urban hubs according to an article in yesterday’s Law360.  

The WilmerHale facilities, which are slotted to open in September, will house the majority of the firm’s finance, human resources, information technology, document review and practice management operations, which are currently spread out between its Boston, New York and Washington offices. 

And WilmerHale is not alone.  In 2002, Orrick Herrington opened a global operations center in Wheeling, West Virginia, a town of about 30,000 near Pittsburgh. The converted warehouse operates around the clock and holds the firm’s help desk, document and transcription production, billings and collections, payroll and other business functions.

For the full article from Law360 click here.  

This is a trend we have written about in numerous posts.  These smaller metropolitan areas come with lower price tags for rent, taxes and employee salaries.  As the Law360 article notes “given the economic beating the industry has taken in recent years, and the availability of sophisticated technology, it may finally be time for law firms to move their business operations — and even some legal work — to low-cost locales throughout the U.S.  This was a significant topic during our coverage of the Georgetown Law conference “Law Firm Evolution” (click here).   

Even with contract attorneys providing law firms the opportunity to cut their costs (and their clients’ costs) with respect to e-discovery, the expenditures can still be prohibitive, particularly in high-cost regions like D.C. and New York where the cost to maintain a document review is higher than elsewhere in the U.S.   As we have reported in the past, besides the state-of-the-art technology driving costs down, the drive to cut costs has led corporations and law firms to seek other ways to cover their e-discovery work — without sending it overseas.

These outsourcing discussions highlight a law firm or client’s desire to simply seek lower cost alternatives, and that has led to a growing development of in-sourcing (also called “farmshoring” or “onshoring”) by staffing projects in locales such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbus, Houston, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as working with law firms in smaller metropolitan areas where billable rates are lower but quality is just as high, or going with lower cost niche firms throughout the country. 

As Lumen Legal says in its recent white paper: “As such, the industry is re-thinking its cost-saving strategy even further, expanding it to ask not only who is performing document review, but where.  Companies are starting to accept that the location of the contract lawyers is irrelevant.”

And so we’ve seen this greater movement to “outsourcing” document reviews but to these “on shore” centers — to U.S.-licensed lawyers in less-populated, less expensive areas of the country.  It’s the alternative to offshoring that many clients and attorneys find unattractive.  Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, for instance, have a wealth of law schools, a supply of legal skills and legal services capacity, and housing document reviews is not as expensive as other regions.  And that’s why we’ve recently seen a surge in document reviews in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. 

We are certainly NOT discounting the power of offshore centers but there is also an undercurrent to stay in the U.S., but away from the metro centers.

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Note:  next week we resume our “thought leaders” series (click here) with a joint interview:  Steven Berrent, Esq. (Director of Complex Case Services, WilmerHale) and Craig Carpenter (General Counsel of Recommind) who discuss.  Interviews to follow will include  John Tredennick of Catalyst,  Dean Gonsowski of Clearwell Systems, Brandon Daniels of CPA Global, Anne Kershaw and Patrick Oot of The eDiscovery Institute, George Socha (inventor of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model), Scott Holec of eTERA Consulting, Warwick Sharp of Equivio, Bobby Balachand of Exterro, Steve Akers of Digital Reef, Julia Brickell of H5, Greg O’Reilly of LDM Global,  James Schellhase of StoredIQ … plus many more.

As always, have a question or suggestion?  Email us at manager@theposselist.com.

About the Author Gregory P. Bufithis, Esq.

Gregory P. Bufithis is the Founder & Chairman of The Posse List. He has over 25 years of experience in intellectual property law and digital media in the U.S. and Europe.

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