Most people have a negative view of outsourcing. That’s because the most common interaction with outsourcing is a phone call to tech support or your credit card’s customer service line. So, already there is a problem; Your computer isn’t working, or Citibank charged you $77 in late fees and interest because they read one of the numbers on your payment check wrong. So naturally, this phone call has all the positive anticipation of minor dental surgery.
So after waiting on hold for quite some time, someone picks up speaking English with a peculiar accent. They know all the words but you have to listen real close to understand what they are saying. Why? Because the large companies and large banks all have their phone centers in India or the Philippines or other places where the people speak English, but overhead is much lower than in the US. Thus, Big Tech and Big Bank save loads of cash paying low wages and you get to speak to someone who you can sort of understand.
My favorite episode of the disconnect that occurs to me in one of these calls: I called Palm (remember them?) and when I was asked for my city and I answered New York, I was asked what state that was in. Needless to say, my confidence that my problem was being handled by a competent employee didn’t exactly soar.
That’s outsourcing as most people know it.
But, it works for the companies. They know you didn’t buy the cellphone, or choose the credit card, because tech support or customer service was going to be a pleasant experience. And, anyway, they all do it, so even if you did want to find the gadget or the credit card with the distinguishing customer service experience, you couldn’t.
Which brings me to other forms of outsourcing: Once the phone center model became entrenched, entrepreneurs looked around for other service that could be outsourced. Really, the main barrier is technology. When international phone calls were costly, the phone center model was prohibitive. And some services won’t be outsourced for a long time: think masseurs (I’d say never, but I’m sure somewhere someone is working on a prototype).
Outsourcing of legal work is an idea that is over a decade old. The barrier with outsourcing legal work to the traditional outsourcing centers is that so much of what lawyers do is bound up in understanding the culture and the business mores of the clients. I wouldn’t advise a client to send his legal work to lawyers overseas unless those lawyers are really experts in what he needs. The chance for a screw up isn’t worth the savings.
But, what if those overseas lawyers were trained in top US law schools and had years of experience advising US clients from law offices in the US? Would it be worth it to divert legal work overseas if that were the case? What if the rates were 30-60% of the going rates in the US? Would that make sense?
And, that is what we have in Israel at Legal Outsourcing Partners. Our lawyers are all US expatriates. They came to Israel, leaving behind partnerships and stellar legal jobs. But, they took their expertise with them. The smart client can avail herself to that expertise at a fraction of the price that she would have paid had these lawyers stayed in NYC or LA.
This is outsourcing that is positive.
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