Saturday, September 15, 2007

Work Less, Make More

What an amazing philosophy to adopt! Basically I will put in less effort and make more of what I want. I will bet to this point you thought more represented more money. Well it could it could also mean more free time. However you choose to fill in the blank it is up to you. At the end of the day, you can make more by working less. The secret is in how you choose to work. Anyone who works with me learns the secret very quickly. Throughout my dealings with my colleagues I may ask ‘working hard?’ They realize very quickly that the correct answer is not ‘yes’ the correct answer is ‘no’. With today’s level of technology, people should not work hard, people should work smart. We should learn to leverage the resources we have available to us to work less and make more.

The need to ‘make more’ has driven the corporations of the Western World to new heights in financial achievements. In these pursuits, many people have benefited, not only financially but also with new technologies that make life a bit easier. Making more is a good thing, as human kind directly or indirectly derives the benefit. It is when the ‘make more’ mantra becomes the all encompassing end. Following the Enron meltdown, it seemed everyone with a keyboard and internet access had something to say as to the reason why Enron failed. It was one author that I thought took a very fresh perspective; he said “Enron’s failure was the direct result of shareholders wanting too much”. In his well thought out argument, he made it clear that the shareholders pushed management into their wrongdoings.

Today’s legal practice is no different than any other business. There is a need to make more, whether it is for growth, expansion, modernization, or simply bonuses. The motivator to make more is there. Unlike commercial entities that are driven by profits and ROI, professional services establish their own yardstick of success and are probably the reason that they aren’t as profitable as they could be. (Law firm profitability and destiny is a topic I will address in the coming weeks) I believe that today’s professional service firm has so much pent up value that it is scary. These organizations need only change one thing and they will unlock hidden profits!

In an earlier writing I addressed the potential profitability hidden in outsourcing some functions. I know several firms who have exploited regional price differences to generate cost savings. I believe that each firm is currently sitting on at least 100 processes that, if examined and refined, will add value straight to the bottom line. One such cost saving caught my attention as I was reading the October 2007 issue of Litigation Support Today. The article in question was: The Off shoring of Litigation Support Functions.

Litigation support is a time consuming, labor intensive process which requires the greatest adherence to detail. Some of the processes include bibliographic coding, e-discovery, and document review. When these activities are undertaken in today’s firm, it requires people; probably the highest cost of any firm. However, what has become increasingly more popular – outsourcing the function. Not to a firm down the road, but to countries like India, and China where just the exchange rates brings the costs down to 1/30 of what it takes to do in North America.

The process of Litigation Process Outsourcing (LPO) isn’t new. It was actually pioneered by a Dallas firm in 1995. William Brewer III of Brickel & Brewer founded I&A International, a foreign company that undertook litigation support for US based firms. Today, there are close to 500 foreign litigation support service providers, all concentrated on the Asian continent. E-discovery alone is slated to become a 4.8 Billion dollar per year business by 2011 all of which will hit foreign markets! The author of the article, Sally Kane Esq., contends that firms could save between 30-90% by tapping into the vast, inexpensive and extremely experienced foreign markets. Recently I read an article where a firm, faced with a $450,000 estimated litigation support price tag, outsourced the process to India and added $410,000 to their bottom line.

Please keep in mind; I am not professing outsourcing as a solution to every firm. I think that each firm has to look at their multitudinous processes and recognize that there are hidden profits just waiting to be freed, with only a small change to current practices.

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