Monthly Archives: April 2014

Why Outsourcing Doesn’t Mean Offshoring

Why Outsourcing Doesn’t Mean Offshoring

Outsourcing When you hear the word “outsource,” it’s only natural to immediately imagine someone with a thick accent and frustrating experience overall. In reality, outsourcing can be a tremendous benefit to any legal practice, and can just as easily take place domestically rather than abroad. If doubts over the inherent practicality of outsourcing litigation support overseas have you hesitating, maybe it’s time to consider onshoring—that is, domestic outsourcing—instead.

The New World Order (of Outsourcing)

The concept of outsourcing in general has taken off in a big way over the last decade or two. For simpler issues or for the manufacturing industry, it’s easy to see why offshore outsourcing is tempting. Yet, when it comes to more complex matters like litigation support, it’s equally easy to see why law firms may feel uncertain. Whether concerned about the quality of the work, security concerns or the potential for unforeseen complications due to cultural differences, offshore litigation support has been slower to catch on.

Enter domestic outsourcing, also known as onshore outsourcing. By opting to outsource closer to home, many of the common concerns associated with overseas outsourcing—such as unfamiliarity with legal expectations or language or cultural barriers— are mitigated, yet without sacrificing many of the primary benefits associated with outsourcing in general:

  • Cost savings: Law firms can significantly reduce their overhead through domestic outsourcing; vendor attorneys often charge as little as half the going rate of an in-house attorney.
  • Expanded talent pool: Need access to a specific skillset for a case? Outsourcing opens doors to a far more varied labor force whenever the need arises. Compare this to the cost of keeping a full complement of litigation support staff on hand at all times, even when their particular niche talents aren’t needed.
  • Core refocus: Eliminating time-consuming yet necessary busy work allows the most valuable members of a litigation team to refocus their efforts where they can do the most good: right at the core of the firm itself. This promotes a much more robust practice with a stronger foundation for improved longevity over time.

Benefits of Domestic Onshoring

The beauty of domestic outsourcing is that legal practices can still save significantly compared to in-house staffing or increasing their hiring pool, without the potential vulnerabilities that offshore outsourcing may hold. There are some very specific outsourcing perks that are unique to the legal industry:

  • Reduced error rates: Who’s going to be better at any task than someone who performs that task all day, every day? There’s simply no replacement for real-world experience, and domestic outsourcing means tapping into a specialized talent pool without shelling out the big bucks to keep a specialist on staff.
  • Shorter cycle time: A quicker turnaround time for legal tasks is essential. Not only does a higher level of efficiency help lower client billing totals, but coordinating other legal efforts becomes more streamlined as well. All of this can be essential for winning your case.
  • Happier clients: Obviously, clients are happier when they’re able to save money. Since onshoring helps accomplish this, it’s no wonder that it often leads to higher customer satisfaction ratings.

Tips for Success

Like any business venture, onshoring is far from foolproof. It’s absolutely essential for law firms to find a savvy, knowledgeable litigation support vendor when shopping for a domestically outsourced partner. With the right team in place, however, the sky is really the limit when it comes to developing and sustaining business growth through onshoring.

10 Signs You Should Invest In Back-Office On-Demand Services

10 Signs You Should Invest In Back-Office On-Demand Services

Whether it’s the current economical stressors that have led to a shift in business philosophy or a new trend that’s just gaining momentum, there’s no denying that back-office on-demand services are becoming more and more popular. Here are 10 signs that it might be time for your organization to make the shift.

1. The Budget’s Tighter than Ever

It’s no secret that one of the primary advantages of outsourcing any service lies in the tremendous cost savings potential. Outsourcing can save on new hires and implementing additional employee training programs, and even slash overhead costs like square footage expenses quite dramatically.

2. You Need an Expert

Expertise never comes cheap, leading many businesses—particularly niche markets and smaller start-ups—to try and get by with employees who are moderately skillful across several areas rather than specializing in one specific specialty. Outsourcing back-office services means instant access to a much more skillful talent base, yet at significant savings compared to keeping experts in-house and on staff.

3. You’re Over Your Head

Juggling too many balls at once? You’re not alone. The vast majority of small business owners end up doing nearly everything themselves from payroll to appointment setting. This ends up eroding the very foundation that needs shoring up the most: core business operations. Outsourcing lets someone else handle the daily grind while your team is freed up to focus on the essentials again.

4. You’re Expanding

Expansion is sometimes scary for small, understaffed companies, especially when changes happen too quickly to find and train qualified help. On-demand back-office services take the panic out of your success by offering an immediate, scalable solution that complements your growth.

5. New Hires Give You Headaches

Taking on new employees is no small task, nor is it inexpensive. There’s the cost for placing the help wanted ad, hours spent interviewing and training, and issues like health insurance to think about. Outsourcing, on the other hand, skips the learning curve, giving you instant, headache-free access to expertise.

6. Paper Trails Look More Like Superhighways

If your office landscape resembles nothing so much as a paper recycling plant, you should definitely be in the market for some back-office help. Vendors can implement more efficient (typically digital) recordkeeping systems so you can run your operation with a lot less paperwork.

7. You Don’t Want to Invest in Yet More Software

Most businesses can’t afford to make transitions to new tech or revised industry compliance requirements immediately, which could render them less competitive. Back-office vendors, on the other hand, already have the latest and greatest innovations in place at no extra cost or commitment to you.

8. Little Things Are Adding Up

It doesn’t take long for all those seemingly minor tasks to add up to a full workday. If you find yourself with less and less time to do what you really love—like run your business—then it might be a good idea to call for reinforcements.

9. Your Workload Fluctuates

If your workload zooms from slow to overwhelmed back down to slow again, staffing correctly can become very challenging. Back-office outsourcing allows for immediate, flexible scalability so extra hands are there if you need them, but you’re not stuck paying them during your quiet season too.

10. You Love Small Spaces

It seems like some of the best big companies began as start-ups in someone’s garage. As that start-up grows, the square footage expands right along with your overhead. Sending back-office services off-site means you don’t have to make room for yet more people, yet have the infrastructure in place that will support the success of your business.

Using Back-Office Services and Outsourcing to Accelerate Growth: Examples of back-office outsourcing

Using Back-Office Services and Outsourcing to Accelerate Growth: Examples of back-office outsourcing

Accounting ServicesComing soon! Look for our new eBook “Using Back-Office Services and Outsourcing to Accelerate Growth.” In the meantime, check out an excerpt for our free whitepaper below. 

There are a number of services that can be outsourced, but here are a few in-depth examples that can better illustrate some of the primary benefits that can be gained by calling in the experts to handle some of your typical daily workload.

Accounting

• What’s Taken Care Of: The outsourcing of your accounting needs can include bookkeeping, accounts payable and accounts receivable services. At tax season, you can also specifically outsource your tax preparation and filing services as well.

• How It Saves: Accounting operations become much more efficient with outsourcing, and transparency increases as well. Documents are typically scanned
and are then available online for easy, instant access. Companies enjoy a more accurate overview of their financial operations as well as better control overall. Since the majority of small businesses simply don’t need full-time accounting services on staff, outsourcing offers a tremendous reduction in overhead.

• Additional Benefits: Many contractors use highly advanced processing software to take care of complex accounting needs. This is often above and beyond the skill level of a single bookkeeper in a small business. Software licenses that are cost-prohibitive for a small organization suddenly become accessible when using an outsourced firm that has multiple licenses; a dedicated accounting firm has a high enough client volume to justify the extra costs.

Using Back-Office Services and Outsourcing to Accelerate Growth: Is outsourcing right for you?

Using Back-Office Services and Outsourcing to Accelerate Growth: Is outsourcing right for you?

Outsourcing

Coming soon! Look for our new eBook “Using Back-Office Services and Outsourcing to Accelerate Growth.” In the meantime, check out an excerpt for our free whitepaper below. 

Despite all the advantages that outsourcing has to offer, that doesn’t mean it’s right for every company. In fact, it often seems like a tough dichotomy to overcome: the businesses that may benefit the most from outsourcing are smaller companies or startups that may not feel they have the volume of work necessary to justify outsourcing at all.

In reality, all those tiny details-payroll management, looking for the right documentation, making a spreadsheet to track your employees’ vacation time and returning calls or emails-add up to significant time that could be spent on your core operations where your attention ought to be focused.

• Outsourcing saves on staffing overhead by limiting the number of full-time specialists you need to keep on hand at any given time.

• Daily tasks that are easily automated can be taken care of quickly and easily, leaving your most valued team members more available for developing your company’s growth.

• External firms often have access to the most cutting edge technology and methods, many of which are otherwise cost-prohibitive to invest in outright and costly to maintain.

• You have all the benefits of an expert in the field, without the high expenditures of keeping that expertise on your staff full-time.

By sharing outsourced back-office services, you’re giving your enterprise—whether new or established—the opportunity and freedom it needs to evolve, and without getting bogged down by juggling your internal infrastructure at the same time. Outsourcing allows for incredible flexibility and scalability so you’re never limited by peripherals when it comes to growing your business.

Discovery Without Borders: Reconciling Differences in Cross-Border Discovery

Discovery Without Borders: Reconciling Differences in Cross-Border Discovery

Cross-Border Discovery Technology has finally made it possible for all countries to participate in what has become a truly global economy. From collaboration to employment to trade, it seems the growing majority of business interactions are taking place across borders. While there’s no denying that this new level of multiculturalism has made many businesses stronger, it’s also raised some questions, particularly if legal issues arise. How can the differences in discovery expectations be reconciled when litigating across borders?

 A Question of Privacy

A major sticking point between the United States and other countries when it comes to discovery is the question of the level of privacy to which its citizens (and businesses) are entitled. The U.S. takes a very liberal approach to what may be discovered in civil litigation.  For instance, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 (upon which many state court rules are based) states the following well-recognized general principle:

“Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense – including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter.

Other countries take a much more conservative approach toward privacy rights that extend to encompass attitudes regarding discovery as well. In early 2012, the European Commission published a proposal for a new regulation that would specifically apply to data protection, replacing the current (and outdated) Directive 95/46/EC, which says “Member States shall protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular their right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data” defined quite broadly to literally include “any information relating to an identified or identifiable person.”  Adoption of the new regulation is expected later this year, with enforcement in place by 2016.

The U.S. courts default to broad discovery, while the EU philosophy represents an expectation of privacy and data protection as the default. It’s easy to see how these two very different approaches can butt heads, and this is only one example of potential conflict in cross-border discovery.

Moving Toward Common Ground

With cognizance of these and other conflicts within or between multinational companies, Working Group 6 of the Sedona Conference identified six distinct areas of reconciliation in an effort to find some common ground between disclosure and privacy, summarized below:

  1. Practice due respect for the data protection laws in other countries.
  2. When conflicts do arise, use good faith and reasonableness as the standard for their resolution.
  3. Limit the scope of preservation and discovery to what is necessary and relevant.
  4. Follow court orders and/or stipulations in order to minimize conflict.
  5. Be prepared to demonstrate that obligations of preservation and discovery have been addressed.
  6. Don’t preserve unnecessary information beyond satisfying legal and business requirements.

Like an iceberg, while only the most visible of the concerns over cross-border discovery are immediately apparent, there lies a great mass of potential hazards just below the surface. The first step in resolving cross-border discovery disputes is to recognize that there is a problem, and then to maintain open dialogue about possible solutions. Along the way, counsel can expect to face numerous questions regarding ethics, privacy and security. However, as globalization continues to increase, the motivation to find a solution that works for all countries will only increase as well.

Text Message Preservation Issues Causing You a Headache? Take Another Aspirin and Start Thinking about Instant Message Preservation Issues

Text Message Preservation Issues Causing You a Headache? Take Another Aspirin and Start Thinking about Instant Message Preservation Issues

Instant Message Preservation IssuesThe use of instant messaging for business purposes continues to increase. Does your company allow employees to engage in business communications via instant messaging? If so, have the implications been fully considered?

Companies have a duty to preserve ESI (Electronically Stored Information) when litigation is threatened or has already commenced. Courts have held that this duty applies to instant messages just as it does to email and text messages. See, e.g., UPMC v. City of Pittsburgh, Civil Action No. 13-563 (WD PA October 25, 2013).

And courts can certainly sanction parties failing to preserve instant messages. See, e.g., Southeastern Mechanical Services, Inc. v. Brody, 657 F Supp 1293 (MD FLA 2009).

Bottom line, and with apologies to Gertrude Stein, ESI is ESI is ESI.

Thinking Ahead

Another consideration is the tendency of some employees to say things by instant message they wouldn’t say otherwise. They often do not understand that a less-than-appropriate instant message might end up as Exhibit A in some break-the-company lawsuit.

Instant messaging is only getting more prevalent. Rather than reacting after the harm has been done, a wise company will think ahead and mitigate risk by taking measures such as adopting policies covering the issue, careful management, and employee education.

Send any sensitive information via email? Have email encryption? No? Uh-oh!

Not Preserving Text Messages Could Cost You Big Money!

Not Preserving Text Messages Could Cost You Big Money!

Not Preserving Text Messages Could Cost You Big MoneyIf you think text messaging is something you don’t need to worry about in litigation, think again.  Several months ago, the defendants in In Re Pradaxa learned this lesson the hard way.

In this December 2013 case, a federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois ordered the defendants to pay almost $1 million in sanctions for eDiscovery failures, including the failure to preserve text messages. Specifically, the court found that the defendants knew their employees were communicating via text for business purposes, yet did nothing to correct the auto-delete function for text messages when implementing a litigation hold. The court pointed out that the duty to preserve applies to text messages just as it does to email.

 What’s Next?

Pradaxa is something of an extreme example but it does illustrate the point that companies need to be concerned about business text preservation just as they need to be concerned about any other data spoliation.

Next up:  How about instant messaging? When employees use instant messaging for business communications, the same preservation rules apply as if those communications were sent by email or text. The next short blog will discuss this issue.

Emailing Sensitive Information without Encrypting: Playing with Fire?

Emailing Sensitive Information without Encrypting: Playing with Fire?

Attorneys use email to transmit valuable confidential client information as part of their daily operations, yet many fail to use encryption. Despite the belief that native email is reasonably secure, the reality is that emails are intercepted and accessed by third parties on a regular basis.

Email and Ethical Duty Emailing Sensitive Information without Encrypting

Lawyers have an ethical duty to take reasonable precautions in preventing a client’s confidential information from ending up in the hands of a third party. While this doesn’t necessarily infer an absolute duty to encrypt email per se, some circumstances do require encryption.

For example, California Formal Opinion No. 2010-179, pertaining to confidential communications, states that “encrypting email may be a reasonable step for an attorney to take in an effort to ensure the confidentiality of such communications remain so when circumstance calls for it, particularly if the information at issue is highly sensitive and the use of encryption is not onerous.”

So, when does sensitive information rise to the level of “highly” sensitive information? Good question. Do you want to guess where that line is and just hope you guessed correctly? And when does the use of encryption rise to the level of “onerous”? This is another good question, as modern encryption tools are inexpensive and easy to use – quite a difference from the old days.

Why Not Encrypt?

Perhaps this question ought to be turned on its head: Why wouldn’t you use encryption? Some encryption tools even carry with them side benefits such as a guaranteed recall feature – valuable in the event of inadvertent disclosure through a mistakenly-sent email.

Lawyers routinely send confidential information via email. Given the risks associated with transmitting such data without encrypting, and given how encryption tools have become so user-friendly and cost-effective, it’s becoming more difficult to justify not using encryption.

What Does the Future Hold?

Hacking into confidential information is a common everyday event, and will only continue to increase in frequency. This truth, coupled with the fact that today’s encryption tools are more convenient than ever, means that the line will continue to shift such that more and more – if not all – lawyer-client emails will require encryption.