Contract Attorneys, Outsourcing

Is This ‘Attorney’ Job Heading Offshore?

The hits to the legal industry just keep coming. Every time you think you have mastered the new normal, there is a new issue that needs to be addressed. Yes, this is probably because law firms were so entrenched in the way they do business that they refused to change and are only now seeing the landscape change around them.

But the reality is that all our jobs are heading to India. Right? There’s many a project manager who likes to threaten the review team when they aren’t coding fast enough, “If you don’t code faster they’ll send this case to India!”



In the comments to last week’s column, I was called to task for ignoring that ungainly elephant in the room. Offshoring.

When is Alex going to address the threat to contract “attornies” posed by offshoring doc review and other by-rote tasks to India?

I will admit my experiences with offshoring are somewhat limited; my only real interaction with the phenomenon of offshoring was as an associate. There was a big, expensive case nearing the discovery phase and the client insisted on evaluating the cost savings of hiring contractors in the Philippines. That case was many a moon ago, but in that instance the client’s security concerns trumped their cost concerns. As a result, the job stayed with good ole U.S. of A. temps. Since that long ago time I know there have been security advances and increased professionalization of foreign markets so those same client concerns may well play out differently in 2013.

All this is true, but I can’t help shake the lingering notion that the idea of offshoring document review just seems hopelessly passé to me. Why jump through the hurdles, and pay the international plane fares necessary for training when American legal markets are sinking lower and lower? (Last week’s worst job winner put the price at $17 per hour)

But maybe I’m wrong, after all I am not in the position of making these calls, and it could be a case of homerism that makes me rage against the dying of the light. Now before our dear commenters go crazy (I admit I could be wrong!) it turns out I have actual facts on my side.

The November issue of Corporate Counsel has published the results of their survey assessing Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) to “non-legal entities” to perform legal work. The results of their work bear this out. While 54% of the respondents admit to outsourcing almost two-thirds of those jobs are staying in right here.

  • Most of the companies surveyed said their outsourcing was not offshoring: 65 percent of the law departments used vendors based in the U.S.
  • Of those that offshored, 64 percent sent work to India. Eighteen percent shipped work to Australia and another 18 percent to the Philippines.

Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I’m not worried about some poor guy in Mumbai trying to eke out a living. Not when it’s the HAL 9000 coming to eat my lunch.

And make no mistake, the computers are coming for us.

Now we turn to our weekly “worst job” feature. This one comes from the Pacific Northwest, by way of Seattle. As the tipster put it:

Not only is the pay minimum wage, but the post seems pretty demanding: “you will need to convince us that you satisfy the criteria for this job.”

For those of you not willing to do the extra googling, that puts this awesome contract job at $9.19 an hour. Yikes.

Good thing you Seattleites have access to the kind of quality caffeine you need to burn the midnight oil to pay student loans on that salary.

If you have information about a bad contract attorney job, send an email to with the subject line “worst job.” As for this week’s winner, send us an email with your mailing information and t-shirt size and you will be the proud owner of some ATL swag.

Alex Rich is a T14 grad and Biglaw refugee who has worked as a contract attorney for the last 7 years… and counting.  If you have a story about the underbelly of the legal world known as contract work, email Alex at

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