One of the growing trends in the legal profession is the outsourcing of legal services through legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies. Whether using the low-cost services of lawyers in India, hiring legal research firms, or using contract attorneys to handle temporary legal projects, a significant amount of legal work is now being performed by someone other than the attorney who was actually hired to do it. In some situations, the American lawyer is bypassed entirely. The most popular form of legal outsourcing seems to involve sending legal work to lawyers in India.Benefits
Legal outsourcing may be a great way for a busy attorney or law firm to handle complex or time-consuming projects on a more affordable budget. Solo practitioners, small firms, and boutique law practices can take on cases that would otherwise be too large for them to handle. Midsize and large law firms can make their billing rates more competitive by obtaining subcontracted legal services at a dramatically reduced rate. Firms that use legal outsourcing find that it provides all the benefits of having associates and paralegals performing research and document review, but at a fraction of the cost and without having to bring on full time employees.News Spreads Quickly
There is a down side to this movement - lawyers are not the only ones who know about legal outsourcing. Many Fortune 500 companies have taken notice of the cheap billing rates for lawyers overseas, and have cut out the middleman (the US firm) in favor of dealing directly with the legal outsourcing firms. Restrictions on unauthorized practice of law are avoided by simply having U.S. in-house counsel or a local law firm review and approve the outsourced work.
In an interview with The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, Jane Weir, Director in the Forensic & Dispute Practice of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, said that the economic downturn has motivated companies to look at what they are spending on legal services for ways to reduce costs. She believes that law firms will also seek out LPO vendors as a way to reduce costs and manage data for their clients.Mundane Tasks or Complex Work?
According to a New York Law Journal article published on Law.com, legal process outsourcing firms "target the more mundane but nonetheless time-intensive tasks associated with legal practice." They are more likely to be hired to handle voluminous discovery work, rather than draft complex legal briefs.
While much of the work may be mundane, that certainly can't be said for all legal outsourcing jobs. Recent reports indicate that firms and companies are now entrusting Indian law firms and legal outsourcing companies not only with mundane discovery, but with complex legal briefs and court pleadings. For example, Law Without Borders reported on how SDD Global Solutions in India prepared the court pleadings and appellate brief that won a slander lawsuit in California appellate courts over a comedy routine performed by Sasha Baron Cohen.Legal Outsourcing Firms
We are building a directory of legal outsourcing firms as part of the About.com Law site. To see the current directory, read Legal Outsourcing Services Directory. If you know of a firm we have overlooked, please send us a message or post the company's information in the comment section so we can add them to the list.
Do you see legal outsourcing as a positive trend for the legal profession, or will this merely cause more American lawyers to be out of work? Do you see risks in legal outsourcing? Share your thoughts in the comments section or discuss it in our Forum.