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Continued widespread negativity toward offshoring legal services

Sharp Legal Brands – Global Elite (2009) from Acritas at 44, delves into attitudes of law departments toward their law firms outsourcing some tasks. One of the choices was “outsourcing standardized or commoditized legal processes to companies in emerging economies such as India.” Given three choices to indicate their attitude toward that move, twice as many law departments were negative than were positive. More than 400 companies weighed in on this particular question.

In light of all the press about offshoring in recent years, such antipathy strikes me as strange. The report offers no further thoughts but as I see it, I am confident the movement offshore will continue to grow.

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2 responses to “Continued widespread negativity toward offshoring legal services”

  1. Strange indeed. One might think that after the tremendous success of India’s information technology industry, the U.S. public would get over the notion that India is a land of nothing but horrible poverty and call centers. However, regarding the capabilities of U.S.-law trained Indian attorneys at legal outsourcing companies in particular, ignorance still abounds.
    But there are many signs of change, and it is only a matter of time before legal departments and law firms realize the full potential of Indian legal professionals, especially in the area of higher-value services such as legal research and drafting.
    For example, reports on how Indian lawyers at SDD Global Solutions (an Indian company set up by my U.S. law firm) impressed the legal department of UK’s second largest commercial television network to the point where the client, Channel Four Television Corporation, even issued a press release on the subject: 

    “Channel Four issued a statement that it was ‘happy not only with the result in the Ali G case [a defeated libel suit against Channel Four and Sacha Baron Cohen in Los Angeles], but also with the low legal fees that made the defense possible.’ It added that the case was being ‘fought with the litigation support services of SDD Global Solutions, the India arm of Channel 4’s U.S. counsel, SmithDehn LLP, in a groundbreaking case where ‘outsourcing’ has proved to be a creative solution to running a robust defense.’ Channel Four noted that SDD Global conducted the legal research and drafted all of the preliminary drafts of court papers in the litigation, including the successful motion for summary judgment.”
    To cite another example, Atlas Legal Research in Bangalore, together with Atlas’s U.S.-licensed, supervisory attorneys in Dallas, were hired by a U.S. medical services company to draft a 50-state legal survey. Here is a portion of a “thank you” letter written by the CEO of the grateful client:
    “You may not be aware, but we had a small portion of that research complete when we hired Atlas. As a test, we had your team reproduce some of the same work done by our nationally recognized law firm. The legal research and opinions that your team produced were essentially identical, except for the price tag. Your group saved us 90%, and completed the work in less than half the time. For clarification, the research you did in less than one month saved us over $200,000.”
    To take this even further, in what seems to be the rough equivalent of a “man bites dog” story, the ABA Journal reported correctly last month that highly trained legal outsourcing attorneys at our own India operation, SDD Global, have been even been correcting grammatical and other mistakes of partners and associates at one of the top 100 law firms in the United States.
    That unusual assignment did not happen because the U.S. lawyers were incompetent. The client’s motivation was to save costs, by eliminating a layer of large law firm review, while at the same time providing a high-quality second look. In addition, most of our Indian lawyers are preparing to become admitted to practice law in U.S. jurisdictions. When that happens, the “Buy American” critics who say that only U.S.-admitted lawyers are capable of doing U.S. legal work might be further confounded. They will have to argue that it is not good enough to hire U.S.-admitted lawyers — they must be U.S. lawyers in the U.S.!
    20 years ago, Indian software giant Infosys had only one client, and its founders struggled even to feed their families. At that time, Western IT industry experts probably thought it was impossible that a country such as India would become a huge center for software development. Only ten years ago, who could have predicted that Indian lawyers by the thousands would be performing document review for U.S. law firms and their clients? Looking back, those apparently impossible occurrences, now that they have happened, somehow seem inevitable. The same will be true for legal research, the drafting of contracts and litigation papers, and other high-value legal work that Indian companies can provide, and already are providing, at a high level of quality and speed, and at dramatically lower cost.
    Russell Smith
    SmithDehn LLP
    SDD Global Solutions
    high-end legal outsourcing

  2. I read about his explanations,a lot of questions to be asked about this one,next time.