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Legal Operations Can Pivot to Extract Maximum Value from Outsourced Services Providers 

By Integreon

Page Reading Time: 7 minutes

Legal operations professionals are the cornerstone in any corporate legal department with wide ranging impact across an organization. They are the process visionaries who make sure the legal work gets done on-time and on-budget, that the right stakeholders are included, risk is identified and mitigated, and that the best technology and service partners are tapped to make everything run smoothly. 

When it comes to working with outsourced service providers from managed services or alternative legal service providers (ALSPs), there is both a science and art to managing the vendor relationship to extract maximum value.  Done right, the outsourced relationship can bring tremendous support and expertise to the legal operations function as well as other departments and external law firms.  Handled poorly, the outsourcing effort can fail, creating unnecessary risk, reflecting negatively on the legal operations team and other teams within the organization. 

So how can legal operations pivot to extract maximum value from its outsourced service providers and ensure success?  By focusing on five key areas including Building Trust, Communication, Metrics and Reporting, Active Engagement, and Honesty. 

Building Trust

If trust cannot be established between legal operations and the outsourcing provider, the relationship is doomed; trust is a two-way street.  The outsourcer must consistently and predictably provide excellent communication, quality work, and accountability with proper metrics and reporting to back it up.  All of this instills confidence in their services.  However, the legal operations person also has to become an internal advocate for the outsourcer, someone within the company who is committed to their success. Change can be frustrating so legal operations must ensure that all of the internal stakeholders remain informed and involved as the relationship grows. 

Whether it’s a one-off project or a long-term managed services contract, the legal operations professional has the power to be a champion of the outsourcing effort.  Legal operations often has to make the case for outsourcing, to show proof of concept, anticipated value, and a vision for how it can work best.  There may be some initial resistance and objections at the company, and a preference to use in-house resources.  Legal operations needs to be vocal about the reasons and benefits for outsourcing in order to overcome and address concerns. Service providers need to be very aware that their champion will also be the person taking the brunt of criticism when partners are not performing up to expectations, so their goals must include supporting that champion proactively and substantively wherever possible.

At the outset of the relationship, the provider needs to get connected to the right people and necessary information.  Their client contact within legal operations must help get them what they need to get them off to a flying start.  When both the client and the outsourcing company trust each other and have one another’s backs, the relationship really takes off. 

Legal operations people working at large organizations often face a long process to get an outsourced vendor approved for a Master Services Agreement.  Therefore, it behooves them to support the services provider so that they are able to leverage that resource to the hilt once they finally have the agreement in place.  The company doesn’t need multiple vendors if it makes the most of the ones it has vetted.  Once vendors are approved, give them the training, information, and access they need to succeed.  Document the process with playbooks, briefing documents and workflow maps to establish clarity and uniformity.  Ensure that the company’s legal operations team and in-house lawyers are on hand to provide quality control at key junctures.  Any changes in process, even slight modifications, need to be checked and approved.


Communication with outsourced providers is more than emails, conference and phone calls – it’s a mindset and modus operandi.  The communication flow must be immediate and mutual between legal operations and the external resource regardless of the information being shared.  This includes sharing good news, relaying bad news, or discussing a process change.

From a troubleshooting standpoint, if an issue or problem arises, the outsourcing company should notify the client immediately and vice versa.  By definition, the outsourcing company has one degree of separation from the company itself, so delayed notification can cause the issue to get exacerbated and potentially more out-of-control.  Communicating the problem promptly and clearly allows for a solution to be devised so resolution comes more swiftly.  Quick issue notification, communication, and resolution are primary factors in building trust in the relationship and being a true partner.

Communication is also crucial from a billing standpoint, and the onus is on the outsourcing company to keep legal operations contacts informed of the financial status of ongoing projects.  Perhaps the work is clicking along fine but the bills are totaling up much higher than the budget allows – that’s a problem.  Or maybe there is not enough work being supplied by the client and the budget is not being used to its full extent; the outsourcer needs to communicate that, too. 

As a legal services provider, there is value in establishing a client’s preferred method of communication. Important emails can be lost in a busy mailbox and phone calls can go unanswered during a hectic day.  Understanding when a short conversation would be more effective than a flurry of email messages should not be underestimated.

Metrics and Reporting

Any discussion about communication these days inevitably leads to accountability through metrics and reporting.  The outsourcing company must track and provide status updates and reporting to the satisfaction of legal operations and its stakeholders.  At any time, legal operations should be able to ask the provider for status on team size, productivity, bottlenecks, and delivery dates and get a quick, thorough response.  Where physically is the work being done, and is the location secure?  Where are the work assignments coming from within the company, and are they in line with the outsourcing agreement?  Weekly check-ins may be necessary at the beginning of an engagement and then less frequent as the relationship becomes more established.  The more granular tracking and details the outsourcer can provide, the more prepared and forthcoming legal operations can be when reporting on progress to the GC and company executives.   

Tracking and reporting on metrics can provide more than updates and status reports. They can deliver valuable insights into a client’s processes, resourcing, data and help frame conversations around methodology or delivery improvements. One of the first operational tasks in a project should be the mutual agreement of the key metrics required to manage the process and risk. Both teams will obviously have different perspectives, but the core metrics needed by both teams will be very similar.

Metrics and reporting can be enormously helpful from a diagnostic point of view if something goes wrong.  Outsourcing companies have human beings on their delivery teams, and they are going to make mistakes, despite their best efforts.  Discovering these errors and mitigating or eliminating them as soon as possible helps to keep risk low and iron out kinks for a smoother, more flawless process.

Active Engagement

Outsourcing companies cannot work in a vacuum – they need frequent interaction to operate as a seamless extension of the corporation’s own team.  The outsourcing resources must be actively engaged with the client via email but also on calls, especially now that in-person meetings are uncommon and most are done virtually. 

The legal operations/outsourcing partner relationship is ever-changing and it can grow over time to serve the client organization more adeptly.  The more the outsourcer becomes familiar with the company’s priorities, protocols and deadlines, the more successfully it can support the client.  Both sides are equally invested in a quality result, both sides are careful not to waste time and money going down the wrong road.  Ideally, both legal operations and outsourcer are empowered to call an audible if a project is going astray. 

One of the secrets of successful outsourcing companies is the personalities of the people they employ.  Client-facing outsourcing team members must be able to speak up, push back, and earn the client’s confidence.  More passive individuals who are less forthcoming may be highly intelligent or knowledgeable but they are not always well suited to client-facing positions.  The best outsourcing providers have client-facing team members who have terrier-like perseverance and who develop the confidence to speak up at the right time.  These inherent tendencies are improved by empowerment and guidance provided by experienced managers.

Honesty and Transparency

The pandemic has brought about a new level of humanity and honesty in the working world.  How many times has a dog barking or child bringing in a school paper appeared in business meetings over the past two years?  Many of the formalities of business have fallen away, giving people the opportunity to be more “real” and connect on a more level playing field.

Honesty and transparency are essential elements to building strong legal operations/outsourced provider foundations.  This involves the culmination of all the principles mentioned above including communication, metrics and reporting, building trust and active engagement.  Over time, the outsourced provider earns trust through being honest and transparent with legal operations and vice versa. 

An honest outsourcing company will admit when a project is out of its wheelhouse and will not overstate its capabilities. While legal operations may be disappointed at an initial no, this is much preferable to the outsourcing company saying it’s capable and then the project fails.  An honest answer paves the way to a possible solution, and the companies may be able to work together to co-create a solution that benefits both.  Both legal operations and the outsourcing resource must be equally transparent about what each is providing and how they meet in the middle to get the job done right.


Legal operations are in a central position to leverage outsourced providers to bring about successful outcomes.  By combining key principles like establishment of trust, communication, measurement and accountability, active engagement and honest transparency, they ensure that outsourcing relationships pay off and deliver on their promise.  Over time, the relationship will shift from being client and outsourcing vendor to an equal partnership.  When legal operations cultivates outsourced teams which are true extensions of their internal resources, that’s a win-win.

About the Authors:

Clare Chalkley, Robert Daniel and Randi Salzberg are all subject matter experts (SMEs) in their respective fields at Integreon, a global ALSP and managed services provider. 

  • Clare Chalkley, Vice President – Legal Services, is based in London and runs managed document review and litigation services projects for Integreon, having previously been a litigation support manager at Clifford Chance law firm and other roles in the field for 25+ years. 
  • Robert Daniel, Senior Director and Financial Services SME, is based in the U.S., having previously worked for Bank of America in legal discovery and related positions for 25+ years.
  • Randi Salzberg is Vice President, Marketing and Creative Services in Integreon’s Business Enablement Services division. Before Integreon, she was a Managing Director in Marketing at investment firm Alliance Bernstein for 25+ years.