Unison Outsourcing finds sweet spot away from high-cost cities
Australia’s first local legal outsourcing business opened its doors in July last year and has since gone from strength to strength.
The brainchild of 130-year-old Wollongong firm RMB Lawyers, Unison Outsourcing does what outsourcing businesses in India and the Philippines do, but in regional Australia. Their client base is a 50-50 split between in-house legal teams and law firms.
“We knew if we could produce high quality work at a similar price to competitors in India and the Philippines, in regional Australia with our Australian skill set demand would be strong, but we didn’t expect it to be as strong as it and we didn’t know who would be more interested,” CEO Craig Osborne told Australasian Lawyer.
Demand has been so strong that the firm hasn’t yet implemented the marketing strategy they devised. He said the firm is now looking to move to a bigger premises following the high demand and expects Unison to outgrow RMB Lawyers in a few years.
Born out of a rapidly evolving legal market, the Unison idea is to work with clients in order to improve the efficiency of current processes. Osborne said it takes around four months to properly bring on a new client.
"The best customer for us is someone who is looking to change the way their processes work, finding us and then talking to us because they are already on board and innovative themselves," he said.
"[They're] working hard at ways they can make their processes less expensive but just as importantly, more efficient and better.
"We're being located by people all around the country."
The firm works in teams of lawyers with different levels of experience and secondees from RMB, even training up 4th and 5th year law students from the University of Wollongong Law School.
Following a two-year internal trial where Unison picked up work only from RMB Lawyers, Osborne said the firm is now picking up work that would never have traditionally been sent to law firms. But what started with simple document review work is quickly expending into finance and superannuation work.
"The largest corporations that we're dealing with are getting us to work on largely on their internal processes, work they haven't traditionally sent to traditional law firms because it would be too expensive to do so," Osborne said.
"Being Australian lawyers, we understand not just Australian law but its application and custom and we're backed by a reasonable law firm of 130 years' experience," Osborne said, pointing out that as an Australian firm, Unison is governed by the Law Society of New South Wales and insured by law cover.
The cost pressures of commoditisation will continue to change the way lawyers work, Osborne predicts.
"We think that all significant players in law in capital cities whether they are in-house or not will be looking closely at deconstructing legal processes, dividing them into their constituent parts and working out which parts should be performed by the high end lawyer and the capital city law firm [and which parts should be performed by an] in-house legal team and then [which parts should be] outsourced to an external provider."