As the world becomes flatter, opportunities abound for companies to move work to the most cost effective location. After World War II, shipping and air transportation made it possible for manufacturing to develop in overseas markets. More recently, the creation of the internet has made it possible for back office functions like accounting to shift off shore.
As companies continue to look for ways to control expenses, the next wave of outsourcing involves more sophisticated business functions (i.e. Business Process Outsourcing). Legal Process Outsourcing, or the outsourcing of legal work, is simply one of the newest trends in BPO.
LPO represents a relatively small portion of all legal services delivered in the United States. While LPO is growing rapidly, there are many legal functions that could never be outsourced. So what is actually being outsourced in LPO and what remains on-shore? The answer lies in understanding the concept of the middle office.
If the front office represents those business functions which are core to that business, in the practice of law, the front office might include client counseling, negotiating, representing clients before a decision maker or strategic thinking. In the world of IP practice, the font office could include getting disclosures from inventors, negotiating a licensing agreement, or filing a patent application.
At the same time, the back office in IP practice might include docketing and paying administrative fees to preserve IP rights.
The middle office represents those professional functions which do not require client contact or high level strategic thinking. In IP practice, the middle office might include prior art searches, creating first drafts of patent applications, conducting patent intelligence (e.g. freedom to operate studies) and generally supporting the patent lawyer in the front office. It is the middle office that represents the greatest opportunity for an LPO to collaborate with a law firm or in-house IP counsel.