Outsourcing spreading

Outsourcing — having work done outside of your own office, or your own firm/company — is not new. For years, companies have been expanding operations to other cities and even other countries. It’s called "division of labor" or "economies of scale" or, today, the dreaded and feared "outsourcing."

A new term to describe the phenomenon of having work done most economically and most efficiently.

In Friday’s USA Today, there was a front page article about new cities in Colorado, Georgia and Florida oursourcing their city hall, hiring private companies to perform functions that normally would be performed by city employees…everything except the Mayor, police and fire fighting functions.

Not a novel idea, just an extension. Law firms are coming to this topic somewhat late. Immigration law firms are finding that many of their functions can be performed in India; a large, national law firm consolidated all of its back office tasks in West Virginia, and other law firms are centralizing other functions in specific areas where the greatest talent pool and lowest cost of performing the work exists.

Generally, this benefit, this concentration of effort based on economies of scale, has been limited to the larger firms. Now, however, even the smaller firms are looking at this approach. Recently, a 12 lawyer law firm approached me with the idea. And even sole practitioners are beginning to look at how they can do more outside of their own office when the economics justifies it. Hence, "virtual assistants" have become a new profession.

As I’ve said in a number of other contexts, economics drives our profession just as it does all others. We’ve just been a little slower to adapt. After all, we’re steeped in precedents.


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