Simmons set to vote on moving legal jobs offshore

Firm lines up qualified agency staff in India, South Africa or Australia

SIMMONS & Simmons is preparing a plan to outsource work to agency lawyers in low-cost jurisdictions, paving the way for a fresh wave of outsourcing in the legal sector.

Partners will vote this week on a proposal to use external lawyers in India, South Africa or Australia for large pieces of litigation or corporate due diligence.

Other firms, including Clifford Chance and Lovells, have outsourced paralegal and support staff functions, but Simmons is the first major firm to consider using qualified agency lawyers abroad.

The move would put paralegal, trainee and associate jobs at risk in the firm’s English-speaking offices.

It is understood that ­Simmons could achieve a 50 per cent cost-saving on each role that is moved offshore.

Managing partner Mark Dawkins has pinned the firm’s new three-year strategy on maximising efficiency.

“We want to be at the forefront of delivering value through new ways of ­working at the top end of the market,” he said. “We’re not going to defend a business model that clients don’t want to have to pay for.”

Dawkins confirmed he had spoken to several outsourcing agencies, but said the outline proposal did not include details of potential job cuts.
He said: “We could get more work from clients and grow. It could be a way of enlarging our market share.”

In August last year, Clifford Chance announced plans to ramp up its offshore paralegal capacity in India, while Lovells and Eversheds have moved some business support functions to low-cost centres. All three firms have since slashed staff numbers in the UK.

A number of legal outsourcing companies have sprung up to meet increased demand, including Exigent, Integreon and Office Tiger.
Exigent director David Holme said: “Law firms are dipping their toes in the water. They want to build up a capability without having to employ people full-time.”

Simmons partners will vote on the new three-year plan this week.