Wipro Legal Process Outsourcing Creates Gold Standard For Customer Value

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - 01:00

Editor: Please tell our readers about the work you have performed at Wipro Technologies .

Unterberger: Pressure from law departments to reduce legal spending continues to grow. As Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) Head for Wipro Technologies, an outsourcing leader, I have implemented "gold standard" practices, creating more productive and cost-efficient legal support, particularly in the intellectual property (IP) arena.

For decades, Wipro has delivered integrated business outsourcing transformation across a range of industries, including technology, manufacturing, media, healthcare, finance, and insurance. Our management team applied a holistic approach to create a "gold standard" for LPO that focuses on value to customers created by hands-on legal outsourcing experience, proven solutions and transitions, quality through supervision, Six Sigma, Kaizen and Lean, and continuous reevaluation and innovation.

Surveying the state of LPO, I was troubled by the industry's promise of value-driven legal services and the reality of poor delivery and dubious quality that has led to skepticism among law departments and outside law firms. Value doesn't mean lowest price. It is unacceptable for the LPO industry to promote cost without providing standards and practices. As an outsourcing pioneer, Wipro has traditionally taken the initiative to address its customers' demands for benchmarks.

Although law departments have yet to take a definitive position on legal outsourcing, Wipro LPO has embraced our parent company's technology, standardization, consolidation and transformation to create value and increase customer acceptance. Throughout the company, it's referred to as the "Wipro Way," and it's been the same recipe for Wipro LPO.

Editor: Please tell us about your background.

Unterberger: I worked in a variety of on- and off-shore outsourcing roles before joining Wipro in 2009. I started my career more than 20 years ago as a litigator defending and prosecuting leading-edge cases, including tobacco, asbestos, Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, World Trade Center and Holocaust Victims Assets. Each of these complex cases required a high degree of outsourcing competency.

While I cut my teeth in domestic legal support, I was an early adopter of LPO, founding my own LPO as well as serving as legal solutions head for a New York- and Mumbai-based LPO. Before moving onto Wipro, I was a consultant to pure play and BPO-based LPOs. I have also taught at law schools and contributed to several legal publications and Web sites. I am currently drafting the first textbook on LPO for a major legal publisher.

Brought in as Wipro's LPO Practice Head, in addition to growing sales my goals include improved centralized management of Wipro LPO's support for its Fortune 100 customers in areas including technology, retail, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, and manufacturing. Wipro has more than 150 full-time LPO employees on- and off-site, including offshore, spread across the globe, so it is critical to manage the growing LPO team as one business. By doing so, we focus on our capabilities, workload, technology and budgets, all of which create value for our customers. Wipro LPO's management is centralized - its leadership, staffing, training, account management and sales all are U.S. based.

Editor: What are the advantages of being a Business Process Outsourcing pioneer?

Unterberger: Wipro is the world's largest BPO engaged in LPO. As recently as May 2010, Wipro achieved the highest management capabilities ranking in the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals' (IAOP) Global Outsourcing 100 for 2010. Wipro was ranked fourth in this prestigious listing, which covers industry leaders in IT and BPO. Being named by IAOP is a tremendous achievement. Wipro LPO brings to the table the value of a NYSE-listed, $5 billion outsourcing innovator with more than 100,000 employees, 50 nationalities and more than 20 languages working in more than 50 delivery centers in the U.S., Canada, Central and South America, the UK, Eastern Europe, India and China.

Keys to Wipro's customer value have been emphasis on both people and process. Commitment to people means an LPO team that has the right skills at the right place, specialized training and high employee engagement. Commitment to process means well-defined and efficient work processes, seamless execution, optimized and effective team roles, and technology for both process and improvement. Part and parcel with these is a culture of experimentation at Wipro LPO that constantly redefines what benefits the customer.

Editor: Why did your background enable you to add value?

Unterberger: My arrival at Wipro LPO proved timely. Post-2007, law department spending was being slashed. Consistent with the industry, many of Wipro's biggest customers were announcing sweeping reductions in legal headcount, alongside extensive and ongoing legal budget cuts. LPO is a critical component in cutting expenditures, but that is only part of the equation. Wipro LPO management also needed to be proactive in setting standards and practices on which our customers can rely. Crucial to setting guidelines was analyses of what LPO service offerings can be - "green-, yellow- and red-lighted." Wipro LPO is transparent as to what services we can provide today, what we can grow to perform, and what we should decline. As a lawyer with more than two decades of experience, I feel I am well situated to determine what kinds of legal support can reasonably be outsourced. While LPO best lends itself to routine and systematized work, it's not unusual for our customers to request some more specialized, higher-value solutions, which we determine can be performed by the Wipro LPO team. Customers appreciate that we are realistic about our capabilities, and this breeds confidence. Because we stick with legal support that is suitable for outsourcing, our LPO customers trust that our particular solutions in IP, contracts, immigration, document management, litigation support, regulatory, legal research and publishing are fully developed.

Editor: Corporate counsel are interested in processes that control costs.

Unterberger: Creating a gold standard for LPO has enabled Wipro cost efficiencies. Nowhere have we seen this more than in our IP support services. The value of customers' IP portfolios has never been greater. Correspondingly, our role in patent and trademark docketing and filing has never been more important.

Wipro LPO customers previously used a mix of in-house counsel, outside law firms and offshore vendors to perform IP services. Moving to Wipro LPO, with its extensive BPO experience, international reach and global delivery capabilities ensured not only cost efficiencies but also consistency in the way these companies are able to do business.

Among the more satisfying aspects of our work is not only an increased volume of assignments but also the variety of work customers are outsourcing to us. That is particularly true in areas of risk that are unique to IP docketing and filing requirements. Wipro LPO has instituted end-to-end controls around its patent and trademark work. We constantly reevaluate our already rigorous docketing and filing procedures. While one change may involve a simple phone call with the customer, another may require significant change in software and hardware. What matters is that both small and large changes involve the same commitment to best practices that reduce risk. As a result, a customer that previously used Wipro only for domestic IP now often uses Wipro for its entire global IP portfolio.

Value encompasses innovation. A particularly important innovation is partnering. For example, a technology customer that previously relied on multiple law firms to manage its IP portfolio, which proved both costly and inefficient, now partners with Wipro LPO, challenging the established way of doing business in its industry. For this customer, fragmented and expensive patent and trademark docketing and filing has become centralized and thereby cost-efficient, adding value and reducing risk. Customers partner with us and facilitate the transition processes to Wipro by leading domain training for our LPO team. Wipro LPO likewise partners with its customers to develop the framework, tools, trainings, controls and metrics required to drive high productivity and reduce costs. Thus, partnering creates value for the customer.

IP is just one area in which Wipro LPO creates value, increasing docketing and filing exponentially and obtaining 50 percent and greater savings.

Here's another example: by reevaluating its contract management capabilities for a fabled U.S. retail customer, Wipro LPO increased abstractions more than 500 percent. Significantly, Wipro's LPO team performs legal work for Wipro's corporate requirements, including the 25,000-plus visas Wipro handles each year. It says a great deal that our own law department trusts our LPO to support large complex legal processes.

Editor: How does Wipro LPO extend its processes to law firms?

Unterberger: Wipro extends the same value proposition it provides law departments to their outside law firms. Having successfully partnered with law departments, Wipro LPO encourages law departments to integrate their outside law firms to build active, cost-effective relationships. Many outside law firms hesitate to work with law departments on LPO, but Wipro LPO is working to change that scenario.

The general counsel's directive is pretty simple: efficiencies created through outsourcing may reduce the outside law firm's per project billing. Moreover, the efficiencies created through reduced billing rates will increase the amount of work the law department gives the firm. The result is a win-win for both the law department (and the company) and the firm. As a strong proponent of the DuPont Model for choosing vendors, I encourage law departments to reduce legal spending by enabling their outside law firms to receive more work and fees by using Wipro. The goal is to have the parties read from the same playbook by building relationships, performing due diligence, and making adjustments to facilitate change. I expect to see more and more law departments working with their outside law firms to engage LPO.

Editor: Your company seems to pride itself on constant innovation.

Unterberger: Creating value means constant innovation on a variety of fronts. For example, Wipro LPO currently works with the ABA's International Law Section to address ethical and other issues relating to the offshoring of legal services and in drafting policy and rules to guide law departments and law firms on outsourcing issues. Even the most outsourcing-savvy customer wants assurances on confidentiality, unauthorized practice of law, plagiarism and security, among other concerns.

Innovation has also led Wipro LPO to develop relationships with U.S. and Indian law schools, drawing talent from both. For example, Wipro LPO has a relationship with one of the few Indian law programs in the U.S., which focuses on a range of legal fields relevant to U.S. and Indian law, including IP, corporate, regulatory and employment law. These relationships enable Wipro to identify LPO candidates, training, standards and trends. Wipro LPO's staff is professionally trained in law and ethics, with an on-site law library. On a personal note, with a background not only in law practice but also in legal academics, I am especially concerned with training to U.S. law department and law firm standards, expectations and culture.

Editor: Would you share your concluding thoughts?

Unterberger: I would observe that many Wipro LPO customers actually rank cost savings below both trust in providing the legal solution and confidence in the delivery team. That ranking, though purely anecdotal, suggests that value to customers means more than just savings and compels those in the LPO industry to adopt their own gold standards.

Please email the interviewee at robert.unterberger@wipro.com with questions about this interview. Learn more about Wipro LPO at www.wipro.com/services/bpo/lpo.htm.