Rishichhibber, via Wikimedia Commons.
Rishichhibber, via Wikimedia Commons.

Lawyers love analogies, and a good one tickled my brain as I listened to a bright young homebuilder speak during a panel discussion on entrepreneurship hosted recently by the Kansas City Business Journal.  She talked about how vital it is to have the right subcontractors in place in order to achieve the best product and cost basis.  The right culture, the right base of knowledge… in order to harness innovation.

I’m always squawking about how lawyers should outsource their international work—and why wouldn’t I?  I’m what’s known in the industry as an LPO… a legal process outsourcer.    My whole practice exists as a way for litigators to keep certain work off their desk, saving their clients and their firms a significant amount of money, time, and frustration.

But the outsourcing analogy strikes me as not quite accurate.  It seems that outsourcing is something you do merely to cut costs.  The better analogy: subcontracting, because it doesn’t only cut costs– it increases quality.

Let’s say you’re a homebuilder, a general contractor, and you’re known throughout your community for great design, solid construction, and a highly personalized system that involves new homeowners at every stage of the process.  You stand by your work, and because you make a concerted effort to know the people handing you hundreds of thousands of dollars, you sell lots of houses.

A family comes to you, wanting a four-bedroom house with all the bells & whistles that state-of-the-art technology can provide.  The contracts are signed and you begin amassing the money and materials necessary to build this family’s dream home.

But that’s not all you need to amass.  You aren’t a landscaper.  You aren’t a plumber, or an electrician, or a hardwood floor guy.

You’re a GC, so how do you get it all done?  You subcontract the specialty work.

Why?  Because it’s efficient, and because the quality of your work product is significantly higher.  Each discrete component of the construction process is handled by somebody with deep, specialized knowledge of his own discipline.

Lawyers provide a service not unlike that of a homebuilder.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line, professional expertise is vital, and trust is the foundation of every transaction.

Yet lawyers have an incredibly hard time subcontracting the work that they don’t specialize in—like serving process or compelling production of evidence in another country.  And that is to their own detriment.

One of my law school professors always loved to say “hey, it’s tough out there” any time somebody complained about one obscure doctrine or another.  And he was absolutely right.  It’s tough out there for litigators—and there are minefields in procedural law that can be easily avoided when lawyers are willing to consult with someone who has deeper knowledge.

Litigators who are tough themselves know that they can’t do it all, just like that homebuilder knows she can’t do the tile and plumbing and wiring work all by herself.  She assembles a team, and that makes all the difference.