Last summer, the large UK law firm Lovells announced that it is farming out certain routine work to “provincially-based solicitors.” Now, Freshfields is following suit. Details and other outsourcing updates follow. 

According to a Lovells press release dated July 2003, the firm has entered into an “IT-driven outsourcing arrangement whereby lower value or more routine work involved in managing a property portfolio is sub-contracted by Lovells to provincially-based solicitors, who work to quality standards set by the firm, whilst the higher value, more specialist work, is handled by Lovells as principal.”

Legal Week reports that Freshfields is following suit. A March 25th article reports that “Freshfields now regularly farms out due diligence work to firms with operations outside London that include national” and other law firms. Whereas Lovells takes responsibility for the work, Freshfields does not, according to the article.

It seems to me that this type of arrangement is similar to outsourcing legal work offshore. Once a firm or client crosses the threshold of outsourcing, the difference between a domestic and overseas provider does not seem that great. Either way, a client or firm faces management, quality control, and ethics considerations.

In other outsourcing news, Law Abroad, a UK company, is gearing up to outsource legal work to South African lawyers, using automated systems to manage the work. (I spotted this on Legal Technology Insider, Issue 159). Separately, Laying down the law, in the Star-Ledger of Newark (New Jersey), reports on the increasing trend of law firms to use lawyers in India.

It feels to me like the market is “tipping.” That is, soon, it may be common place to at least consider using, if not actually use, lawyers in countries where the hourly rate is considerably lower.