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Legal process outsourcing The argument for India

IN TODAY’S competitive world of business, gaining efficiency and staying profitable have become the corporate mantras. Most international law firms based in the US and Europe are taking the Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) route to be lucrative. Several international law firms, legal departments of large corporations and also state and federal government agencies are increasingly outsourcing their legal work to India to reduce cost and increase efficiency.

Like other BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) activities, India’s legal services are affordable and efficient. Preparation of pleadings, docketing, proof-reading, transcription of recorded documents, litigation support and research, case studies and law firm marketing are various avenues of work that are being outsourced to India.

Outsourcing legal work to India costs up to 80 per cent less than the cost of using the services of American law firms.

The advantage of the time zone, availability of English speaking attorneys and familiarity with common law doctrines attract foreign firms. Indian attorneys with US/UK qualifications are sought after. International attorneys are impressed not only by the labour cost differential, but also by the quality and speed of work done. Most LPO outfits in India are reported to be staffed 24/7.

Legal outsourcing is one of the most risk-prone sectors given issues of confidentiality and attorney-client privilege. However, research analysts have concluded that its overall benefits have tremendously boosted business. LPO is also gaining momentum in countries such as China and South Korea.

However, given the advantages of Indian lawyers, experts believe that it is unlikely that other Asian countries will compete in this sector, as has been the case with call centres.

Popular BPO outfits, which undertake legal outsourcing, are OfficeTiger, Intellevate, Prism and Comat. Hourly rates charged range between $40 and $60.The same work performed in the US would cost a whopping $350.

Indian companies also provide legal transcription services, which involve providing accurate tape and digital voice transcriptions. They transcribe audio files into wav, vox, dss and mp3 forms in less than 12 hours.

The LPO business will soon become a mainstream practice for many attorneys in India. Professionals with Indian law degrees, including paralegals, are assets to multinational law firms. Outsourcing helps the in-house counsel to concentrate on core legal issues while outsourcing research and managerial tasks at effective costs.

Many Indian law firms have opened up offshoots of LPO business to cater to international law firms. The average salary of an attorney working at an outsourcing centre is around Rs 25,000.

However, the job is said to be monotonous and routine. Practising professionals and corporate attorneys refrain from undertaking tasks of research and case studies, as they do not add value and are not professionally challenging.

(The author is Partner, Kochhar & Co.)

Dorothy Thomas