Interview with Prashant Maharaj of Anza Services LLP
Since starting in 2003, Prashant Maharaj has brought some of the UK’s top 50 conveyancing firms into India, taking responsibility for the management of their India operations.
Thanks to his in-depth knowledge and experience of this sector, Prashant knows where the burden falls heaviest for firms, offering support for Case Management Systems and assisting with key administrative duties. The strength of engagement with firms has enabled him to work very closely with the Senior Firm Partners, and in turn, helping them to transform the way they work, design better processes and to also take on complex work like Commercial Conveyancing, Corporate Work and so on.
In this interview, he discusses how the process works, as well considering the main reasons why firms choose to outsource.
What made you consider outsourcing conveyancing in the first place?
In short, it seemed like a simple solution to a big problem. Looking across the sector, conveyancing is an area of law which is process based, and there is definitely an element of certainty to it. Whilst the market is subject to fluctuations – just like any other – people will always move house, about 3 times in their lifetime on average. This means that conveyancers will typically be in high demand with heavy workloads that can be difficult to keep on top of. However, I recognised that a large part of their time is made up of administrative tasks, which, whilst important, can actually detract from their fee earning and the time they could be spending with clients. Outsourcing this portion of their workload just seemed like a natural step towards improving efficiency and margins.
How does the process work?
The process is based around access and adaptability; it’s up to the individual firm how much they wish to outsource and the extent of involvement from the off-shore team.
The onshore offices are required to have scanning solutions and access to a case management system; this is to ensure synchronisation across both workplaces and enables one team to easily work on a case at the point where the other left off.
Whilst it is up to the firm as to which aspects that they’d like to delegate, outsourcers are fully equipped to take over total admin support – this can be from initial file opening and sending of relevant letters, right through to preparing and running completion documentation and thereafter post completions. Whilst the work in itself may not seem entirely difficult, the administrative burden can be incredibly time-consuming; removing it from a Fee-Earner’s workload can drastically boost productivity on a firm-wide level, not to mention relieve the growing pressure they’re under.
It’s important to note that we choose not to directly communicate with customers, introducers or estate agents, purely because this is the core for any conveyancing firm. Where legal judgment or customer service is required, it will always be left with the case handler in order to mitigate any future risks.
Do you ever face any challenges with communication?
Outsourcing by nature relies on good communication, so we have to ensure that internet connectivity is prioritised on both sides. This means that for the most part, everything runs incredibly smoothly, with additional mechanisms in place to help curtail any issues that we do come across; for example, there are redundant lines to manage incoming correspondence should it suddenly become very busy.
It’s also important that the law firm doesn’t see us as a separate entity. Whilst we might be remote, the first few months will be focussed on developing a relationship with the firm and working to ensure that our processes are implemented and in sync with theirs. This means that we’re quickly able to become an extension of the firm, rather than a remote unit.
One of the most common questions which crops up in regard to communication is time difference and how that affects the way we’re able to work. However, even though there is a 4 and a half hour gap, we tend to find it’s an advantage rather than a hindrance – as does the law firm.
Starting at 6am UK time means that we can get documents sent off before the working day has even begun; not only does this ensure that the firm is ahead of their competitors, it also demonstrates their efficiency, which they will take the credit for from their customers and introducers.
What are the benefits of outsourcing conveyancing?
It’s no secret that conveyancing is hard work, with stagnant fees meaning that firms are often unable to cover the costs of employing more staff to boost their bottom-line.
In turn, fee earners are under even greater scrutiny when it comes to proving that the work they are prioritising is geared towards generating revenue.
This is the main benefit of outsourcing; removing the administrative tasks from the Fee Earner’s workload ensures that the main focus will always be the needs of the client and fee earning. In turn, firms can increase the number of cases that they take on, without having to compromise on the quality of service.
Whilst it’s easy to assume that in order to save money, firms have to make staff cutbacks, this really is not the case. Rather than what has to be lost, the focus should be on what’s to gain through boosting productivity and improving efficiency.
In real terms, this works out at an average increase of around 20% -30% in volume of work, and in turn, an uplift of around 25% to 35% in profit margin, without having to hire anyone in-house.
Is outsourcing only beneficial for large firms?
In our experience, the firms who will truly gain the most benefit from outsourcing will be the mid-size to larger firms, purely because they will have the right amount of volume to be able to maximise profit margins, whilst still keeping costs low.
The purpose of the first year will be to develop a firm relationship with both sides and to iron out any process issues, basis which the firms will to see the benefits soon after. By the end of the second year, the initial investment(if there were any capital investments) will usually be completely paid off.
What are the main reasons why firms choose to outsource?
In general, most of the firms will have heard about the benefits of outsourcing before they come to us, with efficiency often being key to their decision. It’s only natural that firms will almost immediately see the benefits of being able to have documents delivered, scanned and processed before 9am – for them, it means things are getting done even before they’ve left for work in the morning.
Beyond the individual productivity and cost factors, the decision to outsource will often stem from an awareness of the market as a whole. Firms know that the only way to diversify and grow in such a competitive marketplace is to make the most of existing resources i.e. fee earners should be spending their time fee earning.
What kind of feedback do you receive?
Overwhelmingly, the response we receive is satisfaction, both in service and results.
This is predominantly down to the level of control and accessibility which the off-shore team have. Instead of simply having me, for example, as a central point of contact, the firm is easily able to reach their support staff directly, and review the same case simultaneously. By providing this element of control, it enables the on-shore team to completely be in control of their cases.