Thursday, May 21, 2009

Law firms to go in for a cylindrical makeover

Major law firms in US, Canada and Australia have a pyramidal set-up. The top echelons are occupied by the partners who are supported by an army of supporting staff constituted by associates, counsel and non-equity partners placed at the bottom. Ron Friedmann in his article talks about an alternative structure in order to make the entire set-up efficient and cost effective.

A cylindrical structure according to Ron will help in reducing the base of the law firm. In other words, one needs to examine the battalion created to support the top stakeholders in a well detailed manner so that high costs involved in its maintenance as well as infrastructure can be controlled. One of the possible ways suggested by the author is outsourcing. The pyramid can do away with its huge base and instead create a system wherein routine and simple legal tasks can be outsourced or offshored and the management can work on cases and issues that require a specialized legal expertise. Offshore units with their benefits such as the ability to scale-up operations in a cost effective manner, 24 hour work day, and a willing workforce can prove to be instrumental in this image makeover. “No longer will there be armies to support a few generals”.

The cylindrical structure will not only further enhance the productivity and quality of large law firms but it will also make the clients reap the benefits of smart work culture at leading offshore based providers of quality legal support services. Such offshore companies employ talented lawyers and engineers who are only too keen on working for and being associated with marquee law firms from the developed world. What is seen as “grunt work” by associates in the law firms is seen as a fantastic opportunity to learn about the practice of common law overseas. As with all things, attitude matters and American, Canadian and Australian law firms only stand to gain by tapping the positive attitude.