Outsourcing is a strategy increasingly adopted by law firms and ABSs eager to operate more efficiently and focus on their priorities of fee earning and business management. But, before engaging an outsourcing provider, careful screening is recommended.
To help you, we’ve compiled 10 essential questions…
1. Who will manage my account?
As you’ll be working together closely, will a dedicated individual be handling your day-to-day tasks and is there an assigned deputy for absence cover? Also, who heads up the team? Over time, you’ll need to interact with your cashier, deputy and supervisor so chat over the phone or meet face-to-face to decide if you’ll get on well.
2. Do you have a proven track record in my industry?
Specialist suppliers to the legal profession are well versed in how you work and the challenges you face. Check credentials, ask about service level agreements and request reference sites. Speak with a handful of these existing customers for honest feedback about service quality and overall satisfaction to assist your purchase decision.
3. What’s the status of your financial health and ownership?
This is potentially the beginning of a long-term partnership. Probe into the supplier’s profitability, stability and longevity. You might want to review their balance sheet at Companies House as a starting point. Successful, independently owned, long-standing businesses are preferable for obvious reasons.
4. What are the costs to outsource?
Secure detailed pricing up-front to avoid any nasty surprises from hidden costs later on. Do any add-on fees apply for various outsourced service components? What happens if your business changes? Will the service scale up or down alongside you? Finally, weigh up the final pricing structure against the in-house alternative – employing staff and purchasing software – to get the total pricing picture.
5. What are your security measures?
Enquire about encryption, firewalls, password protection, physical data centre anti-intrusion systems, regularity of software updates and back-up procedures. In the rare event of a security breach, what’s the provider’s response plan? How will they handle incidents and rectify any ensuing data or financial losses? Seek minimum ISO 27001 standards and a business continuity plan.
6. How quickly can I get up and running?
How long will it take to set up and configure your database in order to make the switchover to outsourced support? Likewise, for the supporting software package (if provided), what time period’s required for granting access and delivering end-user training? Along the way, is there a migration plan to ensure a smooth transition? Allow up to 6 weeks.
7. What are my minimum contract terms and how do I terminate?
Life happens, circumstances alter and cancellation can become a necessity. What’s your escape strategy and who owns your data? Read the standard contract small print so you know exactly how long you’re committing yourself to at the outset. Your provider should act as custodians of your data so ensure you’re offered transitional assistance with data provided in an appropriate format for your retention if the relationship comes to an end.
8. What happens if I have a problem out of hours or receive notification of a compliance visit?
The norm is 9am-5pm support with 24/7 system access for your accounts and matter data. If you’re informed of a compliance visit from a governing body, however, can you contact your provider for assistance preparing reports and other documentation? And, are they available during the visit itself should any queries arise? Any self-respecting provider should be willing and able to provide this type of back up, even if it’s over-and-above the normal call of duty.
9. What other outsourcing services do you offer?
Some providers will have an extended range of offerings so you can take advantage of optimum outsourced support, for example payroll and pension management. If they offer software too, better still. ‘One-stop-shop’ provision takes convenience to a new league because you have one point of contact for everything.
10. Why should I outsource anyway?
If you’ve got retiring, resigning or long-term absent employees, and if you’re just a tiny bit curious what positive impact outsourcing may have on your business, then begin your enquiries. Outsourcing isn’t always the answer but imagine the possibilities if it is.