Unison Outsourcing recently announced that it has expanded its offering to include managed services, meaning it will take control of entire processes such as discovery, contract review, legal research and document production, operating as if it were part of the client’s team.
Chief operating officer Paul Bartholomew told Lawyers Weekly the move into managed services was driven by demand from the company’s clients, which include law firms and in-house legal teams, as well as the increasing competition in the legal process outsourcing (LPO) industry.
“The LPO industry is increasingly competitive. It’s growing by 29 per cent year on year,” he said.
“Instead of losing legal work overseas, we’re offering managed services that simply cannot be solely done by a machine, nor is anyone striving for the level of integration with clients as we are.
“We do a lot of work during the setup phase and the onboarding of a client to make sure that the team that gets assigned to a particular client can perform the role as well as the person sitting next to the in-house counsel.”
Unison Outsourcing claims to be the only fully Australian-owned and operated LPO provider, and prides itself on operating 100 per cent onshore.
The Wollongong-headquartered company was able to take on managed services because it is a law firm corporation in its own right. Mr Bartholomew said the company places great value on providing employment opportunities for Australian law graduates.
“We take a lot of pride in the training that we provide law students, in particular,” he said.
“A lot of our model came from having a really good relationship with the University of Wollongong and knowing that we just had this steady supply of grads coming through that we could draw upon for the quasi-legal sort of work and the discovery, things like that.
“For us, it’s a feel-good. It’s like we’re helping the Australian legal profession, as opposed to the jobs that were traditionally being sent offshore. That’s taking away the jobs that grads would start on normally, so we feel like we’re kind of slotting into a hole where the law firms and in-house teams can benefit at a lower cost, but we also get to help out and do our bit.
“A lot of the law students that go to regional universities like Wollongong or Newcastle don’t always get exposure to the corporate work, but just from our business model it brings some of that down here.”
Unison has battled with the common perception that outsourcing always involves offshoring, but Mr Bartholomew said the company is starting to turn this to its advantage.
“We’re starting to get a lot of work off the Australian factor, and it’s amazing how many firms have matters that come through where the review can’t be done offshore, and that’s where the relationship with us or with someone like us seems to be really beneficial.
“It’s usually around confidentiality issues or jurisdictional issues.
“For a lot of law firms, we’re just on a panel of outsourcers, and we may not win all the review work but when there’s a sensitivity to where the data goes, we’re usually top of the list.”
Unison has not officially launched its managed services offering yet, instead opting for a soft launch. Mr Bartholomew said if it continues to be well received, an official launch could follow in mid-2018.