Whenever we talk about outsourcing, a number of commenters disparage the quality of work provided by less expensive, foreign lawyers. But jingoistic rhetoric isn’t going to do anything to stop the movement of legal work offshore. Indian lawyers scored a major victory yesterday, as a suit against Sacha Baron Cohen was tossed out of L.A. Superior Court.
The suit alleged that Cohen (performing as Ali G) suggested he had sex with a woman (who is referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit) during an “interview” with Gore Vidal. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman threw out the suit. He ruled:
No reasonable person could consider the statements made by Ali G on the program to be factual. To the contrary, it is obvious that the Ali G character is absurd, and all his statements are gibberish and intended as comedy. The actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, never strays from the Ali G character, who is dressed in a ridiculous outfit and speaks in the exaggerated manner of a rap artist. Ali G’s statements are similarly absurd. For example, prior to the reference to Plaintiff, while ‘interviewing’ the author Gore Vidal, Ali G refers to the Constitution of the United States as having been written on two tablets, clearly intended to confuse the Constitution with the Ten Commandments. Altogether, the program is obviously a spoof of a serious interview program. No reasonable person could think otherwise.
It’s an important victory for comedy performers. But who did the lion’s share of the legal grunt work on the case? That would be an Indian law firm under the supervision of SmithDehn.
More details after the jump.
The Deadline Hollywood Daily blog picks up this quote from one of Cohen’s lawyers:
As one of the defense lawyers noted: “As so often happens in cases like this, the ‘chilling effect’ of the threat of substantial damages and significant legal costs, forces defendants to settle with plaintiffs who have no justifiable claim. However combining the skills and expertise of U.S. attorneys with U.S. law-trained Indian attorneys has proved to be an innovative and cost-effective way to fight and win the suit.”
Legal research and drafting are the things that junior and mid-level associates are supposed to do. There might not be as much money available for defending Sacha Baron Cohen as there is for defending a Fortune 500 corporation, but his legal battles are high profile. If U.S. firms trust Indian colleagues to do important work on a particularly newsworthy client, what does that mean for clients that don’t make the headlines?
The Indian firm taking the deserved credit for this victory is SDD Global Solutions. Sanjay Bhatia, Head of Operations for SDD, said that this result is good for both Indian and U.S. lawyers:
[T]his is a case where outsourcing created more work in the US, rather than less. Because our team made the defence affordable, US lawyers were able to do the things in the US that they do best there, such as strategizing, supervising, editing, and appearing in court. The implications of this case are huge. With legal outsourcing, baseless lawsuits can be defeated on their merits, instead of settled simply out of fear of legal fees.
Do you buy that argument? Would you buy that argument if you were a first year attorney desperately trying to hang on to your $160K starting salary?
It doesn’t much matter. The future has a way of happening whether people like it or not.
Take a look at the winning brief below.
‘Ali G’ Defamation Lawsuit Thrown Out Thanks To Legal Outsourcing To India [Deadline Hollywood Daily]
ALI G SAVED BY OUTSOURCING [Filmdrunk]