Managed Services: The evolution of legal services?

Virtual.  Managed Service.  Value-based.   These are things Axiom Law talk about and offer their clients.  It’s how they see themselves differentiated from the “traditional” law firm, as this schematic from their website shows:

Futurist Ross Dawson (@rossdawson on Twitter) highlighted this profile of Axiom in Law Technology News on his weblog recently.

Axiom Law is a global New York based 900 person firm.  Over the last few years, they’ve morphed from a “long-term legal temp placement agency” to a firm that hired 300+ staff attorneys in order to provide “managed services”, aka business outsourcing services.

Managed services model

The managed services approach draws on scale; lots of professionals, often working remotely, and whose combined expertise can address many of the legal services that a big corporate client might need.  These run from transactional matters to a full range of litigation and corporate matters.

Work-at-home staff attorneys reduce cost.  Technology infrastructures can keep the work flow efficient, creating additional value.  Managed services pricing is typically fixed-fee, value-based.

The managed services approach is not new.  The big IT consulting and accounting firms have been selling the approach for decades.  They’ve done well buy it.  It’s lucrative business.  I’ve seen and been part of it, first hand, when I worked for big consulting firms.

Learning from the big boys

I’m not a big fan of big-scale managed services.  I’ve seen organizations spend a gazillion dollars for a third party to come in and run their day-to-day operations.  The ROI on dollar spent may or may not happen.  Legal contracts tend to replace corporate accountability.  Company values can, though not always, go AWOL, especially when customer service is handled from afar.

Yet, I’m a fan of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).  It makes sense.  It expands access to Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) services.  Plus, it’s “green”.  It’s public good.

I’d like to see the innovation associated with managed services adapted and applied more, in a regional context.  Here’s one way:

  • identify diverse ADR expertise in the community
  • empower those ADR professionals to work virtually, better
  • connect and network those ADR professionals
  • genuinely support experimentation and side projects
  • match and market diverse teams of ADR professionals, as an ADR service package, to organizations in need

And wherever possible, frame collaboration agreements between providers and clients; agreements that focus on relationships, and minimize protection-oriented legalistic ways.

What’s your take on managed services?

What can you learn from the managed services approach, and apply in your own ADR world?

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