Middle Office Service Outsourcing – Does it Make Sense?

The viability of outsourcing service delivery components of the “middle office” has increased over the past few years as platforms and providers have matured, but is it necessarily a good fit for your firm, and how do you ensure you have the right fit and pricing?

Mattern has seen an uptick in firms migrating to 3rd party providers in the areas of Document/Word Processing, Administrative Resources (expenses, time entry, etc.), aspects of the AP/AR process, and e-Discovery Managed Services.  When implemented correctly and closely managed, these engagements can provide tremendous value.  However, there are several pitfalls to avoid when considering a provider and structuring a contract, or whether outsourcing is even a good option for the firm to pursue at all.

Industry reports indicate that 70% of firms outsource some component of the traditional back-office (copy, print, mail, messenger, etc.).  For these firms that embrace outsourcing and have proven the model works, the logical question becomes whether other service areas can benefit from the same level of treatment and deliver similar results – improved efficiency, expanded service hours, consistent quality and best practices, on-boarding and training of staff, a viable career path for employees, and potential cost savings to the firm.

Is there buy-in at the highest levels of the firm? A firm’s middle office touches the end-users to a greater degree, so certain factors need to align for a successful engagement.  It is often said that culture eats process for breakfast (or is it lunch?), and this is especially true in law firms.  If there is not a willingness to take on process changes that have the backing of firm leadership, the engagement is dead on arrival.

Outsourcing is a commitment that requires backing of leadership, a partner with a cultural fit, a well-structured contract with Service Level Agreements (SLAs), a well-documented implementation plan, and a closely monitored program for user adoption and measured results.  Is there a clear understanding of expectations around service hours, turn-around times, back-fill expectations, penalties for non-compliance, etc.?  A firm can reap tremendous value with a successful program, but too often many of these factors are overlooked until it is too late.

Law firms typically only get one chance at middle office outsourcing, so it needs to be done right the first time.  Mattern has helped firms navigate these waters by conducting current state assessments, creating blueprints for increased efficiency, and implementing both in-house and outsourced solutions.  When outsourcing is an option, a thorough understanding of “fit” between firm and provider is critical, with a managed bid process, well-structured contract, and a documented implementation and monitoring plan necessary for success.