Demand grows for local legal outsourcing

by |
Australia’s first local legal outsourcing business opened its doors in July last year and has since gone from strength to strength.

The brainchild of 130-year-old Wollongong firm RMB Lawyers, Unison Outsourcing does what outsourcing businesses in India and the Philippines do, but in regional Australia.  Their client base is a 50-50 split between in-house legal teams and law firms.

“We knew if we could produce high quality work at a similar price to competitors in India and the Philippines, in regional Australia with our Australian skill set demand would be strong, but we didn’t expect it to be as strong as it and we didn’t know who would be more interested,” CEO Craig Osborne told Australasian Lawyer.

Demand has been so strong that the firm hasn’t yet implemented the marketing strategy they devised.  He said the firm is now looking to move to a bigger premises following the high demand and expects Unison to outgrow RMB Lawyers in a few years.

Born out of a rapidly evolving legal market, the Unison idea is to work with clients in order to improve the efficiency of current processes.  Osborne said it takes around four months to properly bring on a new client.

“The best customer for us is someone who is looking to change the way their processes work, finding us and then talking to us because they are already on board and innovative themselves,” he said.

“[They’re] working hard at ways they can make their processes less expensive but just as importantly, more efficient and better.

“We’re being located by people all around the country.”

The firm works in teams of lawyers with different levels of experience and secondees from RMB, even training up 4th and 5th year law students from the University of Wollongong Law School. 

Following a two-year internal trial where Unison picked up work only from RMB Lawyers, Osborne said the firm is now picking up work that would never have traditionally been sent to law firms.  But what started with simple document review work is quickly expending into finance and superannuation work.

“The largest corporations that we’re dealing with are getting us to work on largely on their internal processes, work they haven’t traditionally sent to traditional law firms because it would be too expensive to do so,” Osborne said.

“Being Australian lawyers, we understand not just Australian law but its application and custom and we’re backed by a reasonable law firm of 130 years’ experience,” Osborne said, pointing out that as an Australian firm, Unison is governed by the Law Society of New South Wales and insured by law cover.

The cost pressures of commoditisation will continue to change the way lawyers work, Osborne predicts.

“We think that all significant players in law in capital cities whether they are in-house or not will be looking closely at deconstructing legal processes, dividing them into their constituent parts and working out which parts should be performed by the high end lawyer and the capital city law firm [and which parts should be performed by an] in-house legal team and then [which parts should be] outsourced to an external provider.”
  • Chris Dancey on 10/02/2016 5:51:41 PM

    The cost base in rural Australia would still be significantly higher than the Philippines. It therefore may not maximize the cost savings that clients desire or can achieve by offshoring. The quality and efficiency achievable using lawyers from the best law schools in the Philippines is also arguably as good if not better than rural Australian talent.

  • Ted Dwyer on 12/02/2016 7:40:31 AM

    Very interesting article indeed. Not only are they properly insured and regulated, but Unison provides Australian clients with a local choice. This gives them a competitive advantage over other LPO/ legal outsourcers. Definitely a company to follow.

  • Greg Dwyer on 13/02/2016 11:15:21 AM

    This is an exciting and fascinating development in the Australian legal market - but perhaps not surprising coming from an organisation that was the first LAW 9000 accredited practice in Australia and at the forefront of legal management system development. Greg Dwyer (not related to Ted!)

  • Greg Dwyer on 13/02/2016 11:21:46 AM

    Perhaps Chris Dancey should have declared his "interest" as founder of Augment General Counsel - a potential competitor to Unison - as well as his expertise (but perhaps not in geography)

  • Chris Dancey on 13/02/2016 1:35:19 PM

    Ted, actually I am from Australia but that is not really relevant. Just because something is an Australian originated service does not automatically mean it is superior in quality or cheaper than a service originating overseas. I think it's a matter of choice for clients and of course those who are making a buying decision based on nationalism, rather than a pure cost, efficiency and quality focused decision are perfectly entitled to do that and may wish to use a service based in Australia for that reason. The important point is there is a range of options for clients to chose from. The reference to "rural" in my comment was a reference to the "regional" comment in the author's original article.

  • Wells Church on 16/02/2016 10:48:50 AM

    Top global law firms and corporates have been using offshore LPO for many years now and many have run pilots to ensure the work quality is comparable to their existing lawyers or in-house resources as part of their due diligence. In addition to a lower cost base, the best offshore LPOs employ leading technology and have mature systems and processes including in respect to lawyer training and managing confidentiality and security issues. Local LPO doesn't have the track record, scalability or cost structures to support the suggestion that it is "a far more attractive choice". Arguments about 'proper regulation' and 'quality concerns' are a smokescreen - they simply play on off-shoring fear.

  • vinsonmichae on 17/02/2016 3:59:14 PM

    Legal process outsourcing businesses are trying to set a high ethical standard to maintain a long relationship with the clients. Legal service off shoring companies are becoming more cautious about the credibility and confidentiality of those service providing companies.
    http://vlaw.org/

Australasian Lawyer forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions