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More details on the Rio Tinto offshoring deal with CPA Global

Leah Cooper, the global managing attorney for Rio Tinto, spoke at the Legal Week Corporate Counsel Forum last week. Her remarks added nuance to what I have written previously about the company and its ground-breaking arrangement with CPA Global (See my post of June 4, 2007: 50 lawyers worldwide for Rio Tinto and decentralized reporting; May 4, 2009: 100-year relationship with major firm; June 18, 2009: describes offshoring arrangement and annual £60 million external legal bill; Aug. 3, 2009: Cooper’s role; Aug. 4, 2009: heat map used by CPA Global; and Sept. 1, 2009: deal will support, not replace, in-house attorneys.).

Cooper said that the litmus test is “if it can go to a paralegal, it can go to India.” Having started on May 1st, to date the law department has sent 120 projects to India, of which 46 would otherwise have gone to a law firm and 74 would have been done inside. She estimates the savings at $4 million.

The department measures the quality of each project on a scale of 1 to 10; the average rating is in the 7-8 range and any project below that gets scrutinized.

Each month she prepares a report for the in-house team that describes the projects recently completed. At this point, clients do not interact directly with the offshore team. A web-based tool enables Rio Tinto lawyers to describe and initiate work from the offshore group. But, she stressed, there is a mandatory “clarification call” within 24 hours to make sure both sides share the same understanding of the assignment. As a personal touch, they maintain a Facebook site for the team in India.