Our recent post about outsourcing sparked some interesting debate about whether junior-level work will be shipped out of the country in the near future.
The commenters seemed to break into three camps: (1) you’re an idiot, outsourcing is already here; (2) you’re an idiot, ain’t nobody gonna take my job, USA, USA; and (3) you’re an idiot.
Fair enough on all counts. But wherever you stand on the issue it should be noted that people are trying to convince your partners to outsource, now.
Ron Friedmann of Integreon, a large legal process outsourcing firm, has written a treatise to convince firms to outsource the work most junior associates do for a living. He starts out talking in language managing partners love:
Until recently, firms emphasized revenue growth over cost reduction. They have merged, invested in marketing, added practice groups, and opened offices around the world. Now, however, with a recession likely, cost control is of growing interest.
Most people should know what “cost control” is code for. But let Friedmann do the double talk:
Outsourcing converts fixed costs to variable ones and avoids the need to borrow. Many law firms are under-capitalized. Partners may therefore want to avoid fixed commitments and to minimize borrowing. Similarly, law departments have small capital budgets and like to avoid locking in headcount. For both, outsourcing provides flexibility and avoids capital commitments.
Capital commitments? Like summer associate programs that offer rising 3Ls jobs over a year before they report to work? Great.
Friedmann tries to be funny, after the break.
Remember when “outsourcing” was something that only blue collar workers with “some” high school education had to worry about? Well, those days are long gone, and now the global economy is officially poised to raid Biglaw jobs.
In an opinion (PDF) made public on Tuesday, the ABA declared shipping legal work overseas to be ethically permissible. The New York Law Journal reports that the first causalities will likely be contract attorneys brought in for extra muscle during document intensive litigation.
But we know it won’t stop there. Check in with any other industry that has to face off against a subcontinent of educated, English-speaking professionals willing to do the work for fractions of what Americans demand. It’s not pretty.
To be sure, we can count on the ABA to erect other (largely protectionist) policies, to ensure that high-end legal work remains the sole purview of partners graduates from accredited law schools.
Yet so long as Biglaw remains big business, how long before the work of junior associates can be cost effectively shipped overseas? It’s not like firms want to go to $190K for incoming associates.
People already in the pipeline should be fine. But change is coming to our profession. This ABA decision isn’t the tip of an iceberg, it is the receding sea that anticipates a tsunami.
Make haste for high ground. ABA Gives Thumbs Up to Legal Outsourcing [Law.com] Earlier: Biglaw to… Rupees?
Do you have a Scrabulous problem? Are you addicted to the online version of Scrabble, which you can play via Facebook?
We had a Scrabulous addiction for a while, until we forswore the game. We’re finishing up current games; in fact, we just scored a bingo right before posting this (“OPERATED” — see board at right). But we are not starting or participating in new matches.
If you’ve been finding your own productivity impaired by Scrabulous, however, you may not need to give up the application. It may be taken out of your hands, over your protest. From the BBC:
Facebook has been asked to remove the Scrabulous game from its website by the makers of Scrabble. The Facebook add-on has proved hugely popular on the social network site and regularly racks up more than 500,000 daily users. Lawyers for toy makers Hasbro and Mattel say Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game.
The move has sparked protests by regular fans of Scrabulous keen to keep the add-on running. Scrabulous is currently one of Facebook’s ten most popular applications – little programs that Facebook members can add to the profiles they maintain on the site….
The Scrabulous add-on was not created by Facebook but was built for the site by Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla – software developers based in Kolkata.
The law firm of Seyfarth Shaw cordially invites its associates… to toast their own obsolescence. Check out the invite below, for “a cocktail reception to welcome the group of attorneys visiting from Manthan Services in Bangalore, India.”
Our tipster wonders: “Why pay first-years $160,000 a year for legal research (or document review), when you can use a lawyer from India at a fraction of the cost?” Earlier: NationwideWorldwide Pay Raise Watch: Mumbai to $8,160?
Bruce Masterson, chief operating officer of Socrates Media LLC, asked his outside counsel to customize a residential lease for all 50 U.S. states in 2003. The firm’s estimate: about $400,000. He rejected that price tag and hired QuisLex, in Hyderabad, India, which did it for $45,000.
“It was good quality,” said Masterson, whose Chicago-based company publishes legal forms on the Internet. “We’ve been working together ever since.”
Clients are pushing law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis to send basic legal tasks to India, where lawyers tag documents and investigate takeover targets for as little as $20 an hour. The firms are reacting to a trend that will move about 50,000 U.S. legal jobs overseas by 2015, according to Boston- based Forrester Research Inc.
Biglaw partners may soon be telling associates: “If you don’t think $160,000 is enough to review documents for 2200 hours a year, fine. We’ll just ship your job off to India, where ‘Biff’ and ‘Jenny’ will be happy to be document drones — for under $9,000 a year. And if I have a problem with my laptop, they can help me with that too!” Jones Day, Kirkland Send Work to India to Cut Costs [Bloomberg News]
Right now all everyone can talk about is the prospect — or specter, depending on your point of view — of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But for those who follow the legal profession, the Democratic takeover of the House has other important implications.
Meet the incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). He’s rather liberal, pretty old (77), and one of the longest-serving members of the House — which is why he’s the most senior Democrat on the influential Judiciary Committee. He’s viewed by conservatives with a mixture of fear and loathing, but to many liberals he’s a hero.
We don’t want to get bogged down in substantive political discussion (ewww), so we’ll just pass along some juicy gossip about Congressman Conyers. From CNN:
Two former staff members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, say the longtime Detroit congressman made them baby-sit his children, run errands and work on political campaigns while they were on his congressional payroll.
Sydney Rooks, whom Conyers hired as a legal adviser in his Detroit office, recalls the lawmaker brought his two young sons into her office several times, saying, “Rooks, they’re your responsibility for right now. I’ll be back later.”
For years, outsourcing has been a dirty word inside the world of white-shoe law firms…. A number of large law firms, though, are starting to tiptoe onto far-flung shores.
The latest is Clifford Chance, one of the largest law firms in the world with 29 offices in 20 countries, which will announce plans today to consolidate and move big chunks of its administrative functions like accounting and technological support to an operation in Delhi, India, by next spring.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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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.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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