Camerons battles backlash from controversial outsourcing deal

CMS CAMERON McKenna has admitted that a ­number of elements of its business support function may be retained in-house after ­facing a barrage of criticism over its deal with outsourcing specialist Integreon.

Since the news of the £600m deal broke, The Lawyer’s online messageboard has been inundated with comments from Camerons’ staff criticising the tie-up.
Director of operations Tony Wright, who has been central to overseeing the agreement and will begin a secondment at Integreon next month, admitted that there has been some negative reaction among Camerons’ staff.

Wright said: “There’s been a mix [of reactions] and that’s understandable. It’s a change for the ­majority of people and that brings uncertainty.”

Wright added that some functions of the business may not move over to Integreon. “We still don’t know. It may be that some elements prove too strategic and it doesn’t make sense [to outsource them].

“It may be that some ­individuals are retained by the law firm – it’s never been the case that every element of the business support process would be transferred across,” continued Wright.

The firm has begun a series of meetings with staff at all levels. It has set up sub-committees of the staff forum to discuss the changes and has started publishing regular newsletter updates.

The deal will see a shared service centre set up at Camerons’ London HQ, with a capacity for up to 200 support staff. It will then be made available to other law firms in an agreement ­similar to that signed last year between Integreon and Osborne Clarke.

However, the Bristol firm has outsourced only around three quarters of its back office, with senior figures understood to be reluctant to move towards the full-service model.
Osborne Clarke managing partner Simon Beswick said: “We took an approach that was more conservative, partly because no one had done it before and so the risk was much greater.

“Also, we felt that some areas are less process-­driven and we wanted to keep  some areas in-house.”
Some commentators have questioned how Camerons will be able to guarantee confidentiality if functions such as knowledge management, communications and business development are outsourced.

One senior partner at a rival firm commented: “We certainly wouldn’t do it and I can’t imagine clients would be too happy about it either.”
Wright claimed that processes will be put in place to ensure confidentiality.

He said: “Some people would be dedicated only to CMS Cameron McKenna but would still be employed in the shared centre.”
The new centre is expected to go live in the autumn after a three-month due ­diligence process.