Minter Ellison New Zealand base offers LPO service

Australian firm Minter Ellison is to use its New Zealand offices as an outsourcing centre for UK legal work.

The firm will handle employment, sports, corporate due diligence and energy work for UK firms at an estimated 50 per cent saving on City rates.

Mark Weenink, managing partner at the firm’s New Zealand arm, Minter ­Ellison Rudd Watts, said UK firms are attracted by the firm’s high proportion of English-trained lawyers.

“Half our partnership’s worked in the magic circle, so they’re familiar with UK work,” he said.

Michael Bell, managing principal at outsourcing consultancy Fronterion, said the firm might experience issues around the “scaleability of resources”, adding: “The unique thing about LPO ­specialists is that they’re process-based. Private practice has the advantage that it understands how firms work and can recruit better talent.”

David Holme, ­director at legal process outsourcing (LPO) company ­Exigent, thought the ­decision by firms to offer LPO services could create internal tensions.

“It’s an interesting move, but it potentially creates a two-tier firm,” he said. “I don’t think lawyers in New Zealand would be too happy about doing outsourcing work for Australia or the UK.

Weenink said the decision to offer the new product line was a reflection of a changing market for legal services.

“A single economic market with Australia is on the horizon,” he stated. “That means that a lot of work will move across the Tasman Sea [to Australia].

“Offering outsourcing is a sensible way of utilising resources. We see a competitive advantage in doing lower-cost work; I don’t see it diluting our brand.”