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LegalEase featured in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle

LegalEase featured in Deccan Chronile
Law is the latest in outsourcing to India

 Bangalore: With the world getting flatter, legal eagles in India, especially here, are fighting cses for US lawyers though not side by side. Legal outsourcing to India might have gained a foothold in the US legal system. Attorneys in Grand Forks and other companies now turn to lawyers in Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai for help in drafting legal briefs and research work for cases to be fought in American courts.

Larry Newman, author of Texas Corporation Law and corporate transaction specialist is similarly impressed y the quality of work done by the Indian lawyers. He cites them as being instrumental to getting favorable results in even the most complex of cases. He is partial to legal outsourcing from India for the cost efficiency, fast response, and good work quality – all of which explain why the practice is fast catching up. Similarly, Tariq Akbar and Tariq Hafeez, partners of LegalEase Solutions in Michigan, US, discussed the impact of outsourcing and identified the potential of combining Mr. Hafeez’s legal and Mr.Akbar’s offshoring experience. They hire and retain both American and Indian lawyers to provide actual legal departments.

About a year ago, west – the best known name in legal publicly ruminating about joining the stampede to India. For the past few months, west has been running a pilot programme in Mumbai, in which several Indian lawyers are preparing summaries of unpublished US court decisions.

General electric (Research), America’s fifth-largest corporation, has taken the idea the farthest and set up a subsidiary in India that employs about 30 lawyers. In-house law departments of some multi-national firms – Dupont, General Electric, United Technologies, Bayer, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and sun – are here.

India has a huge potential in legal outsourcing, with the number of jobs in the field increasing to 79,000 by 2005, a study by Forrester has said. Though India had earned over $6.7 billion in US-based outsourcing services, such as software and call centres, till March 2005, the field of legal outsourcing was largely untapped.

Attorneys in Grand Forks and other companies now turn to lawyers in Bangalore, Delhi and chennai for help in drafting legal briefs and research work for cases to be fought in American courts

The study estimated that hobs in the field – which was poised to increase dramatically from about $80 million annually to approximately $4 billion – would grow to 29,000 in 2008, 35,000 by 2010, and 79,000 by 2015.

Indian outsourcing offers the following economic advabtages: a significant wage differential with Indian firms report paying legal researchers around $12,000 per year and also savings in perks, overhead, and working conditions, the study said, adding time zone differences allowed for overnight and 24 x 7 operations. Says Mr Akbar, chief executive officer of LegalEase Solutions, “Our offshore attorneys in India are among the brightest in the legal community and are willing to direct their talents and energy towards providing some world class products. They have been extensively trained on US law and online tools like Lexis Nexix.”

“This is because Indian lawyers are positioned to assist the US legal market,” claimed Rocky Dhir, whose Atlas legal research has lawyers in Bangalore. “There is no difference between Indian and American advocates. The quality of work is the same,” said attorney at law Jay Ethington, specializing in criminal defence.

A former assistant united states attorney, Mr Ethington said he had tried Indian advocates to do research and complete the paperwork for about half-a-dozen cases. “Results have been very good all the time,” he said.

Indian advocates do not fight the case directly in US courts. Sitting thousands of miles away, they do the research work, analyse the case and draft the legal brief for advocates, who fight the case in US courts. This saves a lot of time and energy, besides money, for American attorneys.

The advantage is, Mr.Dhir said, “India, like the US, has a common law jurisdiction”. The fact that the entire legal system, from studies to debate to court orders is conducted in English is also an advantage. Also, the time difference between India and the US is appropriate.

“While our legal research associates are busy preparing the case, US lawyers sleep. As our companies work 24 hours,” Mr Dhir said. It would also be an added advantage for a large number of Indian companies, too, like Infosys, Tata and Wipro, who have business in the US, to access this legal facility. With the help of lawyers from India, these companies can very well compete with their rivals in courts here and that too at a fractional cost.

This proves that offshoring is benefiting both sides and Americans are opening up after much dissent. Agrees, Mr Akbar, “The practice of law requires court time, client development meetings and a certain amount of personal research and writing. You cannot replace an American attorney. We help American lawyers tap the intellectual capital of the world to meet the demands of the legal market through outsourcing. There are small law firms who could definitely use the affordable legal support and there are large ongoing expensive litigation cases (case in point Enron) which continue to consume millions of dollars which can be made a lot more cost effective”.

So far, the legal services work consisted of paralegal, secretarial and litigation support. However, according to financial consulting firm Fulcrum Financial Inquiry, Indian firms now offered more valuable services, including contract review and monitoring, document review for due diligence patent drafting, simple filings and legal research.

According to a report published last year by the university of California at Berkeley, paralegals and legal assistants based in India earn on an average between $6 and $8 an hour, compared with the nearly $18 an hour their counter-parts in the US make. “But it is more than what a lawyer in India would make, I took up working for an outsourcing firm because the money is definitely double,” says Ms Nadini Pai, a lawyer in an outsouring firm in the city.

Will this boom in India too fizz out like the dotcom boom did? “The boom will have to level out as with everything else. There is a demand supply logic which commands the world economy. Once the demand and supply levels off, the boom will subside but the need will continue. BPO is not an industry per se but a concept which will cease to be an attention grabber but more of the norm of things to come as the world continues to get flatter,” says Mr Akbar.

By Raziqueh Hussain