Think again – on offshore workforce for a law firm

Think it’s difficult to implement on offshore workforce for a law firm? Think again

The thought of engaging staff to work for you offshore sounds a little daunting at first. Mostly there is the fear of the unknown:

  • I don’t know what I don’t know – what should I be concerned about?
  • How will it be perceived by my staff and clients?
  • What about client confidentiality and data security?
  • If I was to do it, which country should I pick?
  • How could it work practically?

There are many more questions that could be asked!

The first thing to know though is that a lot of the hard work has already been done. There are already a significant number of law firms, both large and small, employing staff to work for them from other countries.
Typically the larger international firms have invested the time, effort and money to establish their own offshore facility – a path not for the faint hearted. For those firms who don’t have the desire to do this, there are still options to take advantage of the cost savings and resourcing benefits that can be achieved by using offshore staff.

There are service providers who will partner with firms to assist them to engage staff offshore. The right partner can offer assistance to:

  • Identify those functions that may be performed by offshore staff.
  • Develop the position descriptions for and assist with the recruitment of the offshore staff.
  • Establish the operating platform for the staff including:
    • IT set up
    • HR support
    • Office premises
    • Data location and security plan
  • Assist with training both the Australian and Filipino staff in relation to the things you need to know to make the offshoring process work, these will include:
    • Understanding the Filipino labour code and other applicable Filipino laws
    • Understanding cultural differences
    • The communication tools and options available
    • The staff performance management and engagement strategy
    • Reporting frequency, content, and format
  • Provide the ongoing HRM support to ensure that staff members remain engaged, productive and fairly remunerated. This will include the ongoing performance review, management of staff and assisting the law firm to deal with staff issues as they arise.

The Philippines is a good offshore staff destination because of:

  • High English literacy (94%)
  • Same time zone (there is a 2-hour difference to east coast Australia and it is common for the Filipinos to work an offset day to match our working hours)
  • Cultural compatibility – the Philippines was an American colony for 50 years and as a result, they are the most westernised of the Asian countries, they are also a predominantly Christian country
  • Proven destination – American companies have been using the Philippines as an offshore staff destination for over 20 years

The data security and location for each client is different. Most commonly data remains in Australia and is accessed by the Filipino staff with a number of legal and practical measures being put into place to ensure its protection. These include all staff signing a deed of confidentiality and assignment of IP with their Australian Firm and a range of practical measures; no phones in the office, limited access to printers, biometric entry and exit scanners etc.

With the savings from offshore staff commonly in excess of 70%, the quality of the work being similar to that performed locally and the range of functions which can be successfully performed offshore being quite broad (marketing support, finance, HR support, WP, virtual PA’s, IT help desk, graphic design, website maintenance, SEO/SEM, data entry, copy writing etc), it is highly likely that we will see a significant growth in the number of law firms using offshore staff over the coming years.

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