4 SS Corporate Counsel, June 2017
operational support, both of which were used by just six
percent of departments.
The Future of Alternative Staffing
While alternative staffing has shown uneven adoption,
there are signs of improvement on the horizon. Law
department leaders reported that they intend to expand
their use of alternative staffing in discovery, intellectual
property management, regulatory filings, contracting, and
There are two primary obstacles to greater expansion of
alternative staffing. First, somewhat counter-intuitively, are
law department leaders’ concerns over budgets: Fifty-eight
percent of law department leaders reported that budget
concerns were the primary constraint to their use
of alternative staffing.
As cost reduction is often the primary driver of alternative
staffing, this concern is somewhat baffling. One
explanation is that law department leaders are concerned
with the setup costs of launching an alternative staffing
program. While these concerns could be warranted in
some cases, the savings from alternative staffing programs
would likely cover such costs in a relatively short amount
of time. Another possibility is that law department leaders
have yet to be fully convinced of the cost savings potential
of alternative staffing.
Change management concerns — specifically concerns
over quality and the expectations of internal clients — are
the second obstacle that prevents law department leaders
from expanding alternative staffing. Thirty-seven percent of
law department leaders reported they had concerns over
the quality of work created through alternative staffing,
and 16 percent said they were concerned that alternative
staffing would not meet their internal clients’ expectations.
Both of these concerns, however, can be managed.
Alternative staffing is highly flexible, and the wide range of
staffing vendors in the market allows departments to be
selective. Alternative staffing programs can be designed
to accommodate the department’s quality concerns.
They can also be tailored to ensure that internal clients
receive the required service in a timely manner. The largest
obstacle for departments will be managing the shift from
internal staffing to alternative staffing. Stakeholders will
need to be educated on the benefits of alternative staffing.
The persuasiveness of this case will depend upon the
department’s ability to convince internal stakeholders that
alternative staffing provides more than cost savings.
Law department leaders have made significant progress in
the past decade. Their departments have gained greater
control of external spending and significantly increased
capabilities in cost containment and vendor management-related areas. As they tackle internal optimisation,
department leaders should leverage the lessons learned
from these successes.
Law departments face a daunting array of challenges over
the next decade. For most, the volume of work will increase
as the regulatory landscape evolves and the businesses they
serve are further integrated into the global economy. The
vendor landscape will also evolve as new pricing methods
and vendors emerge. These trends will challenge law
department leaders — and they will force corporate counsel
to become more efficient and embrace a more flexible
approach to serving their internal clients.
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