Job Searches, Law Schools, Outsourcing, Student Loans

Outsourcing: The Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats?

Okay, I’m using the term “lifts” very loosely. We all know that outsourcing is taking work that used to be done by very expensive associates based in America and giving to inexpensive workers based in India. The law firm saves money, the client saves money, and the only people who are harmed are recent graduates of U.S. law schools.

But could outsourcing companies be poised to give something back to American law school graduates? Outsourcing companies aren’t ever going to replace the many lost Biglaw jobs that are never coming back, but they could be giving rise to some new opportunities.

At this point, every little bit helps…

As noted in Morning Docket, the New York Times reports that outsourcing companies are hiring U.S.-based lawyers to do work that can not easily be done offshore. The Times cites the example of outsourcing company Pangea3, which was acquired by Thomson Reuters in November 2010.

These jobs don’t pay $160,000 a year, mind you:

The American salaries for outsourced work, typically in the $50,000 to $80,000 range, may look meager compared with the six figures that new associates might still hope to draw at a big firm. But outsourcing jobs typically pay better than temp work — and certainly better than no work at all.

And at that salary range, American lawyers start to look a bit more competitive with their offshore counterparts — and more attractive to potential American clients that might not be comfortable sending legal work overseas.

I’ll say right now that $50K to $80K is not a bad salary for certain types of legal work. Doing work that arguably is “barely legal” isn’t the same as being a high-end lawyer; there’s no reason to pay people $160K for this kind of work, and there probably never was. If this is the salary the market is willing to bear for this kind of work, then that’s okay. This is a fine salary for a young professional just starting out.

The only people who don’t want to understand or adjust to that reality are the deans and faculty at your local law school. The problem isn’t young lawyers not being able to make six-figure salaries; the problem is law schools charging people six figures to have the opportunity to do one of these jobs.

In any event, law schools aren’t suddenly going to start charging people a reasonable price for legal education, so law professors are left to say things like this to the New York Times:

Though legal outsourcing companies may not provide the mentoring and diversity of experience of a traditional law firm, they are a career option that law school graduates should not ignore, said Cassandra Burke Robertson, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University’s school of law.

Right now, she said, most graduating lawyers were “happy when they have a job that pays the bills.”

Let me fix the typos in Professor Robertson’s quote: Right now, most graduating lawyers are happy to have the ability to make minimum loan payments so that law school faculties can continue to pay their bills.

Legal Outsourcing Firms Creating Jobs for American Lawyers [New York Times]

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