The terrorist attacks in Mumbai reminded everyone that we live in a dangerous world. But as India takes the steps necessary to improve its homeland security, we shouldn’t expect the tragedy to stem the tide of outsourcing American legal functions to Indian companies.
The National Law Journal reports that firms are increasingly proud of their outsourcing initiatives:
As outsourcing becomes more commonplace and corporate counsel and law firms are under increasing pressure to reduce costs for clients, law firms such as Baker & McKenzie; Greenberg Traurig; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; and Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler are actually touting at conferences the benefits of outsourcing.
Baker & McKenzie was the last best hope for Heller Ehrman, Greenberg Traurig is conducting stealth layoffs, and Millbank just announced Half-Skadden bonuses. But their outsourcing operations are thriving.
And the wave of firms outsourcing legal services to India is only going to get bigger:
Forrester Research projects that legal outsourcing to India will reach $4 billion by 2015. Some experts, however, find that number too low and others too high. Regardless, other numbers don’t lie — there are an estimated 800,000 lawyers in India and nowhere near that many jobs. Attorneys there charge, on average, $35 an hour, or no more than half of what an upper paralegal or lower-level associate bills, and up to three times less than an upper-level associate’s time.
After the jump, will global terrorism have a chilling effect?
We reported last month that the ABA made it easier for law firms to outsource legal work. But as many commenters pointed out, there would need to be a reason for firms to do that and risk a reputation hit.
Perhaps the market crisis has given firms the perfect opening to begin using low cost legal workers outside the United States.
The Hindu Business Line reports that India is “lawyering-up”:
At a time when the off-shoring industry is plagued with instances of employee lay-offs, companies providing legal process outsourcing (LPO) services are on a hiring spree as demand for litigation services from the US rises.
In the next six months to a year, several LPOs have plans to at least double headcount in order to cater to the increased work flow resulting from the recent turmoil in the US that has seen several financial institutions collapse.
The Wall Street crisis has resulted in increased litigation related to bankruptcy, mergers & acquisitions and other related aspects.
We’ve said before that the first front of this outsourcing battle would be fought over document intensive litigation, when clients demanded the lowest possible costs. Does that sound like a bankruptcy proceeding to anybody?
Indian businesspeople watch CNBC too:
For US companies and law firms, the pressure to put a throttle on costs is immense. By outsourcing to Indian vendors, companies can save about 70 per cent in costs vis-À-vis law firms in America.
After the jump, how Indian firms save 70 cents on the dollar.
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.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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