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LegalEase featured in Canton Observer

A new name, breed in outsourcing

 Out-source. In southeast Michigan, the phrase itself has become, in some households, as offensive as swearing at the dinner table. But Canton residents Tariq Akbar and Tariq Hafeez are working to change the image of the word, as they themselves open up doors to the next big thing in outsourcing: The legal profession.

Akbar and Hafeez, partners in the firm they’ve named LegalEase Solutions, have been for the last year providing offshore legal support services to attorneys in 11 different states.

“Outsourcing has been in the United States for more than 20 years, and recently it’s become like a bad word,” Akbar said. “But there’s a new breed of out-sourcing and it’s tapping the intellectual capital of the world.”

He added that most people associate outsourcing with job loss – an American factory worker loses his job because his employer opens up shop overseas and replaces him with a low-wage worker. But Akbar said in this case, out-sourcing is really about job creation in a global economy. The duo has employed five attorneys in the United States, as well as eight attorneys in India.

The services provided by LegalEase attorneys are typical of those that a new lawyer, right out of law school, would provide, according to Akbar. They perform support functions such as legal research and writing, preparation of pleadings, patent services, and document review, and they do it at a reduced cost because attorney fees in India are much lower than in the United States.

“That’s what legal out-sourcing is all about,” Akbar said. “We are viable because we can get some of the grunt work done very affordably.”

It was Hafeez, an attorney who had been employed for the State Attorney General’s office, who first came up with the idea to outsource legal work. However, because he was born and raised in Michigan, he had no contacts in India. But Akbar, who is related to him by marriage, did.Akbar, who was at the time employed as a business consultant by Deloitte and Touche, moved to the U.S. just six years ago, and his family has strong connections in the legal profession back in India.

“I thought of him right away and we began talking about it,” Hafeez said.

It was a leap of faith leaving their full-time jobs to devote all their time to the new company. Akbar, whose first child was due to be born any day now, and Hafeez, a father of two small children, said because they are the breadwinners in their families, it was definitely unnerving to leave their former jobs. They found a few investors who believe in the idea.

“But I believe this will sustain us, and it will happen very soon,” Hafeez said.

The business was one of only five in the world just a year ago, according to Akbar, but now is one of 14.

“We grew 100 percent last month,” he said.

Even though both partners began full-time work for LegalEase just this June, they believe that by December the company will begin turning a profit.

No matter how much Akbar and Hafeez believe in the fledgling company, they still had to look at how they would be perceived, due to the negative connotations of outsourcing. But their concerns were calmed a bit when they hired a salesman to increase their client base, and he put it this way: “Are you serious? We’re talking about lawyers here. I don’t think anyone is really upset about lawyers losing their jobs.”

The bottom line is, according to Akbar, some one million attorneys in the U.S. last year earned about $7 billion.

“That’s just a lot of money,” he said. “People have to think really hard before they see a lawyer because it’s so expensive. And I know that one of our clients right here in Michigan does pass along his savings to his clients. I do think that companies like ours will provide a benefit to the common man.”