Pinsents – first firm to offshore work of qualified UK lawyers

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  • Reading all these posts has been interesting.
    To suggest that work going to another English speaking country and in a different continent will automatically suffer in quality is plain stupid. The quality of lawyers all depends on who Exigent hire. Just as the quality of lawyers at Pinsents depends on who they hire. It should be noted that there partners in City law firms who were educated in South Africa.
    Now the move by Pinsents - this has happened either because the clients have demanded a reduction in fees or the partners want to keep their level of profits......or both! Pinsents cannot now state they provide excellent contentious training for their trainees and NQs anymore because the work will be outsourced.
    In this a revolution? I don' think so. One size does not fit all. Solutions have to be catered to a client's specific needs. You need a lawyer's expertise for this. Clients will realise this one day but in the meantime they'll do whatever to reduce the amount of fees they are paying.

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  • This professional ethics argument against offshoring is just so much hot air.
    If what's done is not a reserved activity, it can be done by anyone - lawyer or not. So, if you don’t need to be a lawyer to do it, professional ethics don’t even come into it.
    Anyway - don't lawyers in other countries have professional ethics? How arrogant to assume that foreign ethics are some how less “ethical” that English legal ethics. Especially considering that English legal ethics have been found time and time again to be nothing more than protectionist attempts at market-grabbing.
    Perhaps it would be nice if ethics required that law firms didn’t rip clients off, by overcharging for their services. But they don’t, so there you go.
    And one final point – if a document can be reviewed by a senior south African lawyer more cheaply than a junior English associate – or even trainee or paralegal – just how is the client suffering?

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  • There is less to this than meets the eye. You don't have to go as far as SA to find decent enough lawyers working for a fraction of city rates.
    If, say, Simmons and Simmons want to acheive "a 50 per cent cost saving on each role", they hardly need to use overseas lawyers to do that. The could outsource to any given UK national firm and make those savings.
    The reasons firms will not do that are obvious and have nothing to do with cost, quality, or client service. Much better to tell your clients you are saving them money by offshoring than admitting that, in fact, 80% of their work could be done by almost any decent firm. I struggle to see that it will be either cheaper or easier to manage work in another jurisdiction. Offshoring support functions is not without its probems, (churn being a big one) and I can't see this will be any easier. I rather suspect that in time clients will see through this move.
    In fact, it looks more like an opportunity to me. "Why pay for hoity toity city firms to send your work to a shed in SA when you can come to UK National LLP (who will send your work to a shed in the Midlands) ".
    The only losers are firms whose model is to charge £200 ph for recent gradates to turn pages. My heart bleeds.

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  • Very interesting .... I think many are missing the point. Changes WILL happen no matter what. That's evolution and that's the impact of technological and other developments.
    FACT - some legal services / advice / processes can be automated or fulfilled by less skilled people with the right training.
    FACT - technology will continue to offer efficiency opportunities
    FACT - clients will demand better value for money
    FACT - clients will expect to get value
    Our challenge is to harness the opportunities to improve our offering.
    Don't fight it - embrace it in the way that will best suit your business. For some this will be to look at how they can harness technonlogy or outsourced services and use them for their business; for others it will be using the marketing oportunity for letting everyone know that the work is all done in house, by a local and legally qualified person.

    And let's remember the most important person here - the client.

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  • Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision to outsource referred to in this article, and the previous story regarding cost cutting and redundancy talks, the firm needs to take a long hard look at itself and its pretence that it treats its staff well by virtue of its "values" and "diversity" programmes. These are often cited and talked about, but in practice rarely followed.
    Only time will tell when the job market picks up whether it is able to retain any of the assistants which remain or recruit any new ones.

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  • Well, as a Pinsent Masons litigation assistant I must say that I am very upset to learn about this first here on The Lawyer website.

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  • So many comments by English lawyers shows the condition of English law firms work levels. I pity them, while they were sleeping and enjoying on the clients money Indians and SA's has moved ahead.

    Change and innovate, don't crib.

    Peace!

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  • 2.59 makes the point. Those who are carping on about how stupid clients are to fall for low cost-low quality offerings should market themselves as quality outfits whose due diligence or document processing is worth the (much) higher price. If clients agree, they'll pay, If not those firms will be revealed as dinosaurs.
    In the meantime other firms will be trying to work out how they can make money without leverage (i.e. pyramid training schemes). Maybe now is the time to think about setting up a London Wachtell Lipton...with equity financed by Goldmans, finally earning fees that investment bankers find normal, and really adding value.

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  • I fail to see the issue here. I implemented an outsourcing project with Exigent in 2005 enabling secretarial work to be carried out in SA at around 60% of the costs of employing a secretary. Where were the lawyers then complaining on behalf of their co-workers? The silence was deafening. Strange how the situation changes when the boot is on the other foot.
    Lawyers must remember three things;equity partners are in business to make a profit, a law firm is a business (forget all you have been told about it being a profession- law has moved on), and quality will rise to the top meaning that average lawyers who earned a big salary on the back of corporate clients need to think again.
    As I have said quality lawyers will rise up the ranks and be the partners of tomorrow. Many average lawyers will probably end up in South Africa working for Exigent!

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  • The heart of the issue is that assistants and trainees seem to have been led to believe, over the past 10 years or so, that law firms will look after them and their training requirements. If you read law firm recruitment brochures you'd be forgiven for thinking this. But time to wake up. Law firms look after their clients first and foremost. If it was your business you'd do the same. The needs of staff are already met by their salaries. The only way to counter this is to vote with your feet. If your law firm is ignoring your requirements, then when things get busy and law firms cannot recruit enough, remember who did what and when.

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  • The Pinsents litigation assistant should be very careful about what he or she says. Pinsents have a very strict policy on talking to the press and the poster will be hung, drawn and quartered if he or she is found out. The thought police will be searching right now.
    A few years ago someone internally sent a somewhat irreverent picture of the then senior management team to either The Lawyer. He was found out and made to "write" (ie have drafted for him) a letter of apology that was sent to the whole firm couched in the most grovelling and humiliating terms. But you couldnt print it out or forward it so noone outside knew. It was a ridiculously over the top reaction to an admittedly silly joke.

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  • "But you couldnt print it out or forward it so noone outside knew." - so how did you know unless you're from Pinsents as well? If so, how have the litigation team taken the news.....which apparently appeared here first before management told staff?

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  • I was at Pinsents a few years ago when the incident in question happened. The latest rumour I heard about the litigators was pretty negative in terms of morale. I have heard plently of stories about internal strife in litigation since I left (particularly about Manchester).
    Some of the things that happened when I was there defied belief. The work was good, but some of the behaviour was, shall we say, unique in my experience.
    Oh, when I said "either The Lawyer" in my last post I meant to add "or the other legal tabloid" after that.

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  • Anonymous | 22-Jun-2009 6:13 pm your post stated that you found it amusing that not English meant not good quality - I do not think any malice was intended in this regard.

    The issue is not that it is not English it is the lack of personal relationships and communication. There is no way this can be to the same standard as it would be across the same office.

    It is hard enough to build internal relationships and ensure the way you work in Leeds is standardised and is also the way you work in London let alone trying to work in a standardised high quality manner from offshore. Inevitably it will lead to mistakes, lack of clarity, break downs of relationships and so on.

    Even if those lawyers off shore were English the same problems would arise.

    I was a legal secretary at Pinsent Masons back in 2007 when they started the outsource scheme, I spent a miserable 8 months filing! I am now a law student and I am becoming increasingly worried about future progression and the restriction on young lawyers' abilities to excel through experience!

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  • To the Pinsent Masons litigation assistant . You must of missed the in house magazine article about it...plus the whole section on the intranet about it ...plus the two emails???

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  • This is the problem with having a divided profession. I'm a litigator in the US but was once a UK solicitor. UK solicitors do work which, quite frankly, is done by paralegals and contract lawyers here in the US, while the attorneys concentrate on managing cases, taking depositions, drafting particulars and applications, arguing applications, and trying cases in court. 6 years to become nothing but a glorified paralegal, which explains why I fled to the US to do some real quality lawyering. As long as UK firms are content to have new and junior and even some senior lawyers do menial rote office work, then their jobs will be lost to outshoring.

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  • As Mr Burns would say:

    "Of course your jobs are safe! They'll just be done by other people!"

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  • Whilst most rational people will have sympathy with those who are saddened to see offshoring of work there are two sides to the story. The price of commercial legal work in England has been rising faster than the cost of living for decades as have partner incomes. Like housing prices this 'bubble' had ot burst. The real issue is the business model of the 'standard' law firm. It is inflexible and too costly. This recession, offshoring an LPOs should see changes to the basic operating model. Costs have to be driven down and not by the simple expedient of cutting wages - it is much more complex than that.

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