Today's law firms continue to face the challenge of how to do more with less internally, while also meeting heightened client expectations for high-quality corporate services at a reasonable price point.
What to look for in a corporate service provider
That's not always an easy needle to thread. It's also one reason why many firms have decided to work with a corporate service provider.
While choosing to work with a corporate service provider can help firms meet competitive mandates, it's vitally important to choose the right service provider for the job. In order to accomplish this, it's a smart idea to review some basic considerations during the screening phase.
How cost influences choosing a corporate service provider
While the notion of saving money is always attractive, cost should not be the primary metric used to evaluate a corporate service provider. As in many other fields, the old axiom that "you get what you pay for" often holds true with regard to business service providers.
Low-cost providers often must make concessions in key areas such as availability, security, timeliness and accuracy. Low-cost providers often do not offer the same robust education, training and consultation services found with experienced, high-quality corporate service providers. Though it may cost less upfront to work with the least expensive service provider, the services offered by a high-quality corporate service provider may be a greater benefit to a firm in the long run.
The service provider should offer a broad range of features, so that the law firm does not have to hire multiple service providers to handle a variety of niches or specialties.
Finally, a high-quality corporate service provider can save firms money long-term by handling non-billable tasks such as filling out routine forms and documents and chart data.
Which services does a high-quality corporate service provider offer?
One of the services a corporate service provider can provide is due diligence assistance. The difference between a successful deal and a failed one often boils down to a single critical detail. By performing effective due diligence, firms can help ensure that they make the correct decisions related to all transactions. Due diligence can help confirm that clients are in fact buying what they believe they are buying, with no hidden costs, liabilities or other unpleasant surprises. Should a problem be uncovered, clients can quickly react by solving the issue or adjusting the valuation of the transaction.
Many business service providers offer core offerings in this regard. A high-quality corporate service provider, however, goes beyond the basics and offers more comprehensive due diligence services. These additional service categories include the following:
Intellectual Property: These services confirm IP ownership, assess the quality of IP assets, and so on.
Reputation and Regulation: Includes background checks, negative news searches, FCPA assessments and KYC/AML compliance.
Industry Specific Services: This would include motor vehicle services (including confirmation of vehicle ownership and history); hospital lien searches; agricultural lien searches.
By looking for a corporate service provider that offers all of the preceding key services, law firms can help ensure that due diligence processes are comprehensive, rigorous and effective.
Nine ways the right corporate service provider can create value
In addition to evaluating how outsourced services can help support and improve the due diligence process, law firms should also closely examine how a prospective corporate service provider can help their internal personnel meet their own organizational objectives.
The right service provider should be able to do the following nine key things to add value and help ensure greater efficiency and efficacy.
1. Customized workflow
With legal specialists focusing on law firms and corporate specialists focusing on businesses, segmentation in the legal field is more prevalent than ever. This means that law firms should search for a corporate service provider that offers customized charts capable of pulling accurate data across jurisdictions with no re-keying needed. The right service provider should be able to conform to a firm's preferred hours and be able to provide evidence when it's requested in the format in which it is needed.
This customization discussion should occur upfront in the evaluation process. The right provider can enter a firm's specifications into a repository so that their preferences with regard to how documents, data, evidence and invoices are received are readily accessible. The right provider should also be able to provide a firm with suggestions and solutions if that firm is unclear about any customization issue.
2. Quick turnaround
The right service provider can provide accurate document-processing turnaround for any jurisdiction, while also supplying the necessary personnel and resources to support any project. Additionally, a high-quality corporate service provider works with researchers spanning the nation and has a vast network of connections at major filing offices. These attributes can be critical in terms of expediting document turnaround and ensuring that transactions are closed smoothly.
Speed is only one part of the equation for a successful deal; accuracy is equally important. Discovering an error at closing that somehow eluded the due diligence process is one of the most disheartening things that can happen during a transaction. This is a real credibility killer with clients.
Fortunately, a high-quality service provider can greatly minimize the odds of such a nightmare scenario occurring thanks to its deep experience and expertise. Yet whether things go right or wrong, a good service provider is always there for a consultation, ready to provide smart and helpful guidance.
4. Willingness to follow up
These days, most of us are asked to do more with less. This mandate can conflict with the demands of big legal projects, which often require daily documents and updates.
It can be difficult for low-cost service providers to provide this level of service. They may instead ask law firms to accept evidence according to their own preferences and timelines.
A high-quality service provider, however, can be more attentive to your needs and can provide frequent updates as situations arise — while also proactively asking you how and when you'd like information to be sent.
5. A focus on relationships
Relationships are what drive the legal business. This extends to the relationship that law firms have with their service providers. A closer collaboration benefits both parties, and the right corporate service provider will make an effort to discern the preferences, needs and objectives of their partners, ultimately saving them time and money.
6. Robust security
In an age of ever-increasing data breaches, security is a top priority for most law firms. This is reflected in the fact that CIOs and IT managers are now part of the strategic decision-making process. Banks and other financial institutions, in particular, are squarely focused on security and demand that their legal partners stay compliant with security regulations.
This means that it's essential to inquire about security protocols when evaluating various service providers. This is doubly important for firms representing clients that are frequent targets of malicious actors or who face strict regulatory and compliance standards with regard to data handling.
When evaluating providers, it's imperative to know their security protocols. Ask for detailed information about how they safeguard entity management data, contracts, and UCC filing and search data. The right provider will be able to show commitment to data security and backup.
7. Electronic tools and products
The right suite of tools and products can make life much easier for paralegals and other law firm personnel. This means that when reviewing service provider candidates, it's important to inquire about the tools they offer.
Common tools include annual report management tools, charting tools, entity management systems, and corporate and financial document creation and searches. Additionally, service providers should offer training for these tools and products. Here are some of the key questions to ask when comparing product and tool offerings:
- Do you enable e-filing of UCC documents?
- Do you offer shared systems?
- Do you have an advanced charting tool that can create UCC-3 documents?
- How do you keep up with jurisdictional and form changes and communicate such changes to clients?
Ultimately, reviewing e-tools and products requires weighing cost vs. ease of use, to some degree. These tools can create much greater efficiency in the office, so a closer examination is warranted.
Education and training is another key area to evaluate, as CLE courses and non-CLE training can help burnish a firm's brand while keeping a firm apprised of all new legal legislation, relevant case law, and jurisdictional nuances. Service providers can offer access to CLE and legal training opportunities.
9. Governmental relations
Relationships with government agencies are foundational for any successful corporate service provider, as these service providers should work closely with state and county agencies and departments. These relationships are often instrumental in ensuring that a partner law firm receives highly efficient or expedited services.
In order to discern whether a provider makes close governmental relations a priority, ask about their affiliations. Are they, for example, involved with groups such as the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS)?
Today, clients are demanding that their law firms assume a more customer-centric posture. Law firms, in return, should require that their service providers do the same.
By making a proper evaluation of a prospective corporate service provider that's focused on the ideas outlined above, law firms can meet their objective of doing more with less, while delivering better and more consistent service to their clients.
To learn more about how CT Corporation can help, contact your CT representative or call us at (855) 316-8944.