Biglaw, Document Review, India, Job Searches, Outsourcing

Outsourcing: Here Come the Expats

Well, it was only a matter of time before the lawyers started to go where the work is. And, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that the work is in India.

Western-trained lawyers are heading to India, to manage the country’s burgeoning legal outsourcing resources. From the New York Times (gavel bang: WSJ Law Blog):

India’s legal outsourcing industry has grown in recent years from an experimental endeavor to a small but mainstream part of the global business of law. Cash-conscious Wall Street banks, mining giants, insurance firms and industrial conglomerates are hiring lawyers in India for document review, due diligence, contract management and more.

Now, to win new clients and take on more sophisticated work, legal outsourcing firms in India are actively recruiting experienced lawyers from the West. And U.S. and British lawyers — who might once have turned up their noses at the idea of moving to India or harbored an outright hostility to outsourcing legal work in principle — are re-evaluating the sector.

Mumbai to 8,743,800 rupees? Not quite, not yet at least…

The Times reports that these expat managers are making a nice living, but not top Biglaw salaries:

So far, the number of Western lawyers moving to outsourcing companies could be called more of a trickle then a flood. But that may change, as more business flows out of traditional law firms and into India. Compensation for top managers at legal outsourcing firms is competitive with salaries at midsize law firms outside of major U.S. metro areas, executives in the industry say. Living costs are much lower in India, and often, there is the added allure of stock in the outsourcing company.

While the opportunities might be alluring to legal managers, junior associates looking for work in America can expect to feel the full effect of entry-level jobs heading east:

“We will continue to go to big firms for the lawyers they have who are experts in subject matter, world-class thought leaders and the best litigators and regulatory lawyers around the world — and we will pay a lot of money for those lawyers,” said Janine Dascenzo, associate general counsel at G.E.

What G.E. does not need, though, is the “army of associates around them,” Ms. Dascenzo said. “You don’t need a $500-an-hour associate to do things like document review and basic due diligence,” she said.

Wonderful. How long before there’s a 30 Rock episode where Jack tries to outsource Liz Lemon’s writing room to India?

If clients are demanding outsourcing, law firms will certainly comply:

Even white-shoe law firms like Clifford Chance are embracing the concept.

“I think the toothpaste is out of the tube,” said Mark Ford, director of the firm’s “Knowledge Center,” an office south of New Delhi with 30 Indian law school graduates who serve Clifford Chance’s global offices. Mr. Ford lived in India for six months to set up the center, and now manages it from London.

If I may paraphrase Senator Tillinghast’s comment to John Hoynes on the West Wing: “The toothpaste is out of the tube, John. You can’t get it back in. And therefore I want my wife to use an LPO, I want my daughter to use an LPO, and damnit I want one too.”

Would-be junior lawyers, I really don’t know what to tell you. Maybe during flyout week this fall, you guys can book a ticket on AirIndia, just to check out your options?

Outsourcing to India Draws Western Lawyers [New York Times]
Go East, Young Lawyer . . . Way East [WSJ Law Blog]

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