Bowing to pressure from arguably every unemployed or underemployed American-trained attorney, the American Bar Association has delayed its controversial decision about whether or not to start accrediting foreign law schools. Back in August, we told you that the ABA was thinking about unleashing foreign-educated attorneys upon bar examinations across the country. And apparently on this one rare occasion the ABA chose against flooding the market with even more attorneys when there are not enough jobs to go around.
Should attorneys be openly happy about this blatant protectionism? I don’t know — have you tried to get a job in this market?
The only thing global competition is going to do is push down legal salaries, while having zero effect on the cost of legal education….
If you’ve been following along with the trend towards outsourcing over the past few years, you know what American lawyers are up against. Indian lawyers can do American legal work… while American attorneys are shut out of India’s (large and growing) legal market.
As many of you know, President Obama recently fledtraveled to India, and ABA president Stephen N. Zack is begging Obama to use his international goodwill to convince India to stop acting like dicks in an exclusionary fashion with respect to American lawyers and law firms.
Zack’s arguments are simple ones, based on sound business practices, free trade, and fundamental fairness. Yet these arguments haven’t worked on Indian legal authorities, and apparently Obama isn’t any more receptive…
Outsourcing; you might have heard of it. It’s the trend whereby law firms send high man hours/low brain effort work overseas to workers who can complete the tasks at a fraction of the cost. Clients love it, consultants are pushing it, and law firms are struggling to add this new efficiency opportunity into their overall business model.
Well, not all law firms. Peter Kalis, managing partner of K&L Gates, gave a quote to the Legal Intelligencer where he called outsourcing “a gnat in an elephant’s ear.” Evidently, K&L Gates is the elephant, LPO’s are the gnats, and I’m not sure who the clients are supposed to be. Perhaps Peter “Aesop” Kalis can let us know in a future fable.
It’s not that Kalis has his head in the sand when it comes to cost savings that can be generated by moving work out of places like New York and Washington. It’s just that in his world he doesn’t view Mumbai as all that different from Pittsburgh.
An environment in which a person has run up $150,000 in student loans to pay for a law degree only to see jobs exported to India whose citizens are apparently very knowledgeable about the U.S. legal system.
Example: “The best job in the knowledge economy is plumbing because nobody with an advanced degree knows how to use Drano.”
This has all happened before, and this will all happen again. So say we all. At the beginning of the recession, just weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, we brought you a New York Times article from 1990 that illustrated the similarities between the tough legal job markets created by Bush 41 and Bush 43.
Today, we run the DeLorean even further back in time, and to an entirely different country. A loyal reader was cleaning out his office and came across an article from The Law College Magazine of Bombay, India, from 1930. The piece is entitled: “Is It Worthwhile? A Frank Talk With Budding Lawyers.” And it’s all about whether a person should pursue a two-year law degree in India in the 1930s.
Folks, let me tell you: some people worry that India will become the new market for American legal jobs, but that’s not the real fear. The real fear is that American law students will become like Indian law students in 1930.
I like paying attention to what consultants say about the Biglaw market. It offers a fun little insight into what people think partners want to hear.
The ABA Journal reports that consultants at Hildebrandt think partners want to hear that they can still fire people — lots of people:
Writing for the blog of law firm consultant Hildebrandt, Lisa Smith makes an argument that outsourcing, efficiencies and increased hiring of staff attorneys could mean a different mix of staff and associate lawyers—and an overall reduction in head count in the next five to seven years.
Hilderbrandt expects an overall reduction of headcount of 17,500. But not partners! Just associates and staff attorneys…
Lawyers are terrified of outsourcing, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of movement in the legal industry towards keeping entry level legal jobs in America.
But outsourcing didn’t start with low level legal work, and so maybe the reaction against it won’t start in the legal field either. Maybe the counter movement will start in Ohio.
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland just instituted a new ban on outsourcing back-end IT services by the Ohio government. The Wall Street Journal reports:
India’s main software body Wednesday termed the U.S. state of Ohio’s decision to ban technology outsourcing to offshore locations as an “electoral rhetoric” that will be counterproductive, while Infosys Technologies Ltd. said it is concerned about the message from the step.
The Economic Times newspaper said Ohio has banned outsourcing of government IT and back-office projects to offshore locations such as India.
Hey, ABA you might want to pay a little attention to Governor of Ohio. I bet a lot of your constituents wouldn’t mind a little lawyer protectionism just at the moment, globalization be damned.
In keeping with the highly optimistic “dey terk er jerbs” story lines of the last couple of weeks, such as Elie’s on how outsourcing could be great for associates, I thought I would address how attorneys working remotely on e-discovery projects could actually be a good thing for the future of Biglaw.
A couple of years ago, I was a legal recruiter for a small staffing agency placing contract attorneys on e-discovery projects in the Washington, DC area. The attorneys constantly asked me the same questions: “Is it true this is all going away?” Or, “Is all doc review really heading to India?”
I would respond by telling them not to worry about India, because the real threat would be coming from Indiana…
We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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