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The Deccan Herald

People donning the black coat need no longer sweat it out in the noisy corridors of Indian courts in summers any more. For, a lot of jobs are awaiting them in the cool, chrome glass-panelled ITES offices in Indian metropolises. As legal outsourcing is just about wriggling out of the clutches of the aggressive anti-outsourcing rabble rousers in the West, students trained in the Indian law schools can justifiably aspire to be counted among the white-collared workers with attractive pay packets. The budding sector is all poised to free several legal brains from legal sweatshops dotting the environs of the courts that do hone their legal skills but yield little by way of wages.

Demand for legal skills

Legal skills of Indians are now up for uploading. The law firms in the United States are getting increasingly aware that they could maximise their efficiency by sending the back office work to India. It would thus not only cut expenses, but possibly save on time which could thereby be utilised for actual court appearances, face-to-face negotiations or development of clientele.

Gradually, American law firms are discovering the worth of outsourcing work to firms in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Leading firms like Pangea3, LegalEase and Evalueserve are employing a battery of lawyers in India. Currently legal work outsourced from the US is said to provide 12,000 jobs but by 2008, the sector is likely to require 29,000 lawyers, most of them in India with its tradition of English medium law education. Indian lawyers are seen capable of servicing for the US legal firms without any additional training as the judicial system on either end is rooted in British common law. Law firms here are found eminently suitable in handling documents pertaining to scrutiny of contracts, sale deeds, patent registration etc. Even in civil matters, lawyers can execute divorce suits, property related litigation, write business contracts, prepare pleadings etc.

Just look at the following sampling:

Roamware Inc., in San Jose, California, engaged Indian software professionals and lawyers to prepare a database of key terms in nearly 200 legal documents of the company for monitoring contract compliance. Bill was just around $ 5000 while it might have been called to shell down $ 60,000 by an US based legal/IT firm.

DirectoryM, an online marketing firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, uses Indian lawyers for research in litigation. David Kahan, General Counsel for the company says the cost gets reduced by about 90 per cent.

QuisLex employs 12 lawyers in Hyderabad which analysis state to state Insurance regulations. Solan Schwab, a solo practitioner, feels that by outsourcing the work, he spends merely a third of what he would spend on hiring a full-time legal attorney.

The legal outsourcing made a very small beginning in 1995 when I&A International started an office in Hyderabad merely to digitise legal documents and create search databases. Strictly speaking, it was a techno-coolie job, even less arduous than a clerk’s assignment. But now it has begun hiring lawyers to review documents stemming from lawsuits. Now major firms such as Du Pont Co. use the Indian law firms to draft patent applications. And Du Pont makes no bones about saying that, although not all firms would declare that their documents undergo scrutiny in various Indian firms, given the negative connotation the word has in the US.

It’s about saving time

But for American firms it is not saving the money alone. It also saves on time. What a law firm would require a day for review of a legal document, a Bangalore or Hyderabad firm would do all through the night and present the vendor in Chicago or New Jersey a neat file the next morning. Says Tariq Akbar, CEO of LegalEase Solutions LLC, based in Canton, Michigan: We, while offshoring two-thirds of work to Chennai or Cochin work virtually 24 hours. It enables us to take large projects. Hiring also enables to cope up with temporarily increased load of work’.

Legal outsourcing liberates them from desk work. It will thus enable even the small firms to take up large amount of actual litigational assignments. Companies like Lawyers.com and Lexadigm depend exclusively on Indian lawyers to do legal analysis. Others use them for conflict management cases and reviewing legal databases. Intellevate, which has offices in Bangalore and Noida receive invention description. The employees here research if the invention can be patented by going into databases of proprietary rights. Law firms here scan and upload a document on an intranet site which is downloaded in India. Patent application investigation services carry a premium. Indian lawyers can comb through American patent databases to find evidences and documents.

Be it lawsuits or patent registration, confidentiality of the work and the document are key elements in the assignments. When papers are outsourced, companies risk letting out the secrets. But advocates of outsourcing dispel such apprehensions and maintain that such risks are associated with even coding, photocopying of the documents within the United States.

M A Siraj