The Lawyer published a great article on Monday, Colt resolver… Robin Saphra, group GC at Colt Technology Services, uses a combination of legal models to boost service levels. It explains how Saphra has unbundled the legal services Colt buys. 

Colt took a “hard look at the spectrum of legal services” and decided to use “a combination of models that takes in internal advice from a 45-stong team; panel firms; an offshore captive operation; contract attorneys; and a deal with an external firm [Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP)], which is Colt’s preferred interface for a string of overseas relationships.”

BLP’s relatively new managed legal services division handles Colt’s international employment work. Colt realized that it did not have the scale to hire its own employment lawyer everywhere. While it could have retained multiple national counsel, Colt recognized this could lead to inconsistency and inefficiency. In the GC’s word, BLP offers a “joined up” approach.

Colt was also attracted to cost-effective offshore lawyers. Rather than work with a legal process outsourcer (LPO), however, Colt chose to set up its own 6-lawyer captive in Bangalore. That team will work on medium-volume, reasonably complex work.

Colt’s move represents the future of legal services. I was on an ILTA 2010 conference panel where we discussed the future of law firms, positing that practices if not entire firms would segment into “Law Factory” or “Bet the Farm” firms. (See A New View of the Automated Law Firm.) Colt’s move can be viewed as separating the two.

As GCs unbundle and dis-aggregate legal work, more will move some to offshore lawyers. Working for an LPO, I may be biased, but Colt’s decision starts shifting the question from “LPO or not” to “what’s the best way to tap offshore lawyers as part of the resource mix.” Some companies will choose a captive, others an LPO.

On the law firm side, BLP clearly understands the LawFatory v Bet the Farm models. Beyond its MLS factory, it also offers Lawyers on Demand, which I think of as “Axiom-like.”

The moral here is “unbundle – now”. The message for outside counsel is that they better have a sharp focus on their value proposition and figure out whether they are working in a Law Factory or a Bet the Farm practice.

[I first wrote a similar post at the Integreon blog, Learning from a General Counsel Who Has Unbundled Legal Service (10 November 2010).]