Pinsents – first firm to offshore work of qualified UK lawyers

National firm to outsource litigation work to South Africa as offshoring revolution gathers pace

Pinsent Masons is gearing up to make significant cost savings by outsourcing work to South Africa, becoming the first firm to offshore the work of qualified lawyers.

Pinsents is outsourcing litigation work to lawyers working for business services company Exigent in South Africa.

A dedicated team of lawyers based in Cape Town will carry out tasks including first reviews of documentation on UK and US-related investigations at around a 50 per cent saving on each role.

Pinsents head of dispute resolution and litigation Nigel Kissack said: “Does it need some of the best brains in Britain to do that work? We wanted to offer an alternative to our clients – it’s the same work and the same quality, but at a lower cost.”

The move comes after mining company Rio Tinto signed a deal to outsource legal work to India (The Lawyer.com, 18 June).

Firms such as Allen & Overy are also thought to be considering outsourcing certain aspects of litigation work to dedicated teams.

Simmons & Simmons is looking to use external lawyers overseas for large pieces of litigation or corporate due diligence, with the aim of achieving a 50 per cent cost saving on each role that is moved offshore, but the plans have yet to be implemented.

There is some scepticism in the market about offshoring legal work. Norton Rose global head of dispute resolution Antony Dutton said people unfamiliar with a case may not be able to spot “smoking guns” in documents, but Kissack said he was confident about the quality of the lawyers chosen by Exigent.

“Physical separation and systems separation are already achieved. These guys are accredited lawyers and will be subject to our supervision,” he insisted.

While other firms have outsourced non-legal work for some time – Pinsents has farmed out typing work to Exigent since 2007, while Clifford Chance has cut millions from its cost base by outsourcing IT and paralegal work to India – Eversheds is understood to be planning the most wide-reaching non-legal outsourcing project in the market.

As reported by The Lawyer last month (25 May), the firm is piloting a secretarial outsourcing programme in its Cambridge office. The scheme, which begins this week, is due to last for one month, and if successful it will be rolled out across the firm.

During the pilot 10 secretarial staff have been put on paid leave. It is thought that up to 10 of the 30-strong secretarial team in Cambridge will be made redundant if the pilot proves successful.