I’ve been trying to be optimistic about the future of Biglaw in 2010. There’s no harm in hoping for the best.
But I’m positive that 2010 will see more outsourcing of American and British legal jobs to India. And from the perspective of junior Biglaw associates or current law students, that trend does not lead them to a good place.
The Times of London (gavel bang: Am Law Daily) has an excellent expose on Pangea3, an Indian company doing work that used to be done by junior attorneys in the U.K. Once again, we see that law firm managers — and their clients — have compelling cost reasons to ship legal work overseas:
Much of the work that Pangea3 and similar firms deal with, such as drafting derivatives contracts or conducting due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, was once the preserve of trainees and associates at big City law firms. Some of those firms racked up annual revenues of more than £1 billion during the boom years, in part by billing out teams of junior lawyers for up to £300 an hour for even the most routine tasks. …
Whereas a new recruit at a “magic circle” firm in London can expect a starting salary of about £60,000 — rising to more than £90,000 at the best paid firms — Pangea3 can pay a good Indian law graduate as little as £350,000 rupees (£4,700) a year.
Those are powerful numbers. And apparently it’s not even all that hard to start one of these companies.
Details after the jump.
Legally India has a profile of a guy who has started up his own company to capture some of this work outsourced from the west. He’s 24 and isn’t even finished with his legal training, but he’s more than capable of offering American clients low cost legal solutions:
NUJS student Ashish Arun is the managing partner of Offshore Research Partners, which was set up two months ago as a joint venture with the US expert witnesses database DaubertTracker CEO Myles Levin. …
“Frankly speaking,” he noted, “I don’t think what the law firms do, apart from the cutting-edge work, is something for which you need a lot of experience. In the basic stuff that these firms do all the time like compliance, drafting documents, etc, I don’t think experience plays a big role.”
Obviously, legal support staff, paralegals, and contract attorneys should be terrified of outsourcing too.
But for people that have been through three years of accredited legal education, it seems to me that the problem returns to law school. To compete in this global economy, people need to graduate with “experience” or at least the skills that allow them to do more than the most rudimentary legal work.
Biglaw firms aren’t going to keep paying high salaries to junior attorneys for essentially clerical work forever. Whether or not the sea change happens in 2010 or later, it is coming.
Inside India’s Legal Outsourcing Machine [Am Law Daily]
Brief for India’s outsourcing lawyers: keep it cheap [Times of London]
24-year-old NUJS student starts up LPO [Legally India]