Spain is probably not a pioneering, innovative country when it comes to business models, and still less so in a sector as traditional and conservative as the law, but I think that, in fact, we can contribute a lot more than we think.
Part of my professional experience as a lawyer, and subsequently as business development manager, was gained at a BPO (Bank Process Outsourcing) company, which was used by banks to outsource their mortgage processing service.
The company was involved from the point when the bank authorised an operation until the deed was duly entered in the Property Register. This could include any kind of legal advice associated with the operation or the property: renting, censuses, surface rights, all kinds of registry charges, exchanges, third party proceedings, renewal of burdens, etc. as well as managing the operation properly: preparing the deed, checking the necessary supporting documents, coordinating of the signing and even delegated signing.
I had come from working in a traditional office and I was surprised at the way the company worked:
- Technology: All the work is done on the same platform, allowing the status of each document, associated costs, procedures carried out, invoicing and the planned date for completing the process to be monitored.
- Continuous improvement: All the cases generated were filed and incorporated in a management platform, making it possible to resolve most queries in a matter of minutes.
- Analysis: Every week, the volume of operations managed, time associated with each one, deviations from the schedule and the reasons for these were analysed.
- Business management: The company drew up annual budgets, monitored them and analysed them every month. It had sales teams. The categories of junior, senior and partner did not exist. Instead, there were administrative, logistics and two grades of legal workers, supervisors and managers. Professional careers were linked to performance but not to a struggle to get a share of the business’s capital.
This working system was not very common in the legal sector, but the fact is that the Spanish banking sector, together with that in the UK, developed very strongly compared with other countries in the years before the property bubble burst. This can be seen on the following graph:
This very strong development probably stimulated the establishment of these management services, seeking the maximum efficiency of a system that fed the figures for the sector and the country itself.
When the property bubble burst, some of these companies went under. Others, however, managed to reinvent themselves, creating new services, such as:
- Brokerage and management of property assets
- Checking documents and contracts.
And, although banks continue to be an important part of their client portfolio (because of the huge stock of property acquired due to the crisis and the fall off in the construction sector) they have also diversified their clients. They now work for private companies, family offices and investment funds, applying the same working and management methodology but moving from Bank Process Outsourcing (BPO) to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).
Either because they never considered themselves to be legal firms or because they saw themselves instead as banking process managers, the fact is that almost no-one in the legal sector pays them any attention. But these companies have built up a large quantity of legal knowledge, case law and excellent experience in process management, becoming either clear competitors to some legal firms or (looking to the future with a more strategic vision) also their allies in improving their costs, increasing their efficiency and giving their clients a better service.
But that would mean those legal firms rethinking their products and deciding where the true value they offer their clients lies.
For Vicenç Hernández, Assistant Managing Director and Expansion Manager for Tecnotramit: We’re not a typical mortgage processing firm. As time has gone one, we’ve become a services company with process management, BPO and asset management forming our three basic pillars. The legal part is not an end in itself, it’s a means of providing service to our clients. Because of this, we work with legal firms who advise their customers about property but lack the experience and knowledge to manage their property assets. So the collaboration benefits all parties.
Today, companies like Tecnotramit, Diagonalgest or Gesdocument are more than ready to take on outsourcing projects for large or medium-sized businesses, investment funds and legal firms, providing them with a level of transparency, effectiveness, speed and reasonable prices almost without equal in the legal sector.