Offshore Lawyering A Growing Industry

Lawyers inIndiaare raking in work for an increasing number of Canadian businesses by charging fees as low as $25 an hour, states an article in the latest Canadian Bar Association publication.

With over one million lawyers trained in the fundamentals of common English law and thousands more graduating every year,Indiais quickly becoming the preferred destination for Legal process outsourcing (LPO), said author Patti Ryan in the latest issue of the CBA’s National magazine.

The perception of outsourcing legal work abroad is quickly changing, as the frenetic growth of the LPO market has shown. According to Forrester Research, an independent research firm, LPO revenues will grow from an estimated $640-million in 2010 to more than $4-billion by 2015.

Though some LPOs have operations in the Philippines, South Africa or elsewhere, India remains the preferred offshore delivery location — and for good reason, said Gavin Birer of Legalwise the first dedicated LPO to open in Canada in 2006.

Birer reckons that the growing acceptance of LPO comes mostly from corporate law departments.

Indeed, following the economic downturn of the past couple of years, companies were forced to take a harder look at their total legal spend. “Show me a general counsel today who doesn’t have pressure on budgets and pressure on resources,” says Birer. Shipping work toIndiacan cost as little as one-tenth of what it would cost inCanada. Typical rates for LPO services are around $25 per hour.

But as they experienced the benefits of high-quality work being done at lower cost, legal departments also have come to realize that having a dedicated workforce on the other side of the world offers a number of other advantages, including round-the-clock coverage, efficient project management and a better resource allocation.

When Canadian lawyers are packing it in and heading home for the night, Indian lawyers are starting their days.

Many files can be returned to clients by the next morning. That’s “24/5 functionality,” says Birer.

And while some lawyers see outsourcing as a threat to their livelihood — inConnecticut, a bill was introduced earlier this year to prohibit the outsourcing of the drafting, review or analysis of legal documents — others like what they get out of it.

By handling high volumes of repetitive work, LPOs make it easier for lawyers in the home country to focus on higher-end work.

“If you’ve got a 10-person department and you think you’re going to be able to replace your 10 lawyers with these 10 inIndia, you’re looking at it wrong. If you’re looking at supplementing the work your department does with a very solid resource, then yes.”

When Birer founded Legalwise in 2006, it was the first Canadian LPO. Another Canadian outfit, LexEdge, entered the fray in 2007, and there are several international players that have made a name for themselves: Mindcrest, Quislex, CPA Global, Pangea 3, Evalueserve and Integreon Managed Solutions Inc.

Birer has 25 lawyers working in two offices inBangalore, but expects to double or even quadruple the size of his legal team over the next year or so. Legalwise lawyers are full-time salaried employees.

According to Ramya Ramachandra, a Legalwise managing lawyer inBangalore, the challenge of adhering to rigorous standards is not taken lightly. But attracting talented lawyers to work for an LPO is easy enough.

For many Indian lawyers a career with an LPO is considered a “preferred choice,” she says.

“The pay package at an LPO, the work-life balance it offers, the unique opportunity for Indian lawyers to get a Western style experience and the growth opportunities available are some of the reasons why LPOs are gaining increasing popularity,” she says. “The perception that veteran legal professionals have toward the LPO industry is gradually changing too.”

In terms of her own career, Ramachandra says joining Legalwise has been a smart move. She had been working at a traditional law firm, but didn’t enjoy the traditional “sink or swim” approach.

She appreciates that Legalwise offers her an opportunity to hone her business and management skills, and says her prospects there look promising, with plenty of room or growth.

Since LPO lawyers can be required to do a lot of routine, repetitive work, it might be fair to wonder whether the “cream of the crop” prefer to concentrate their energies elsewhere, the aricle’s author noted.

But as Ramachandra points out, lawyers everywhere have to do repetitive work at least some of the time, whether they’re based inIndiaorCanada, at a law firm, LPO or law department.

In fact, she says the higher-end LPOs inIndiaare attracting highly capable lawyers who are interested in working with international clients.

When clients are ready to send work to Legalwise, they upload documents and data themselves directly to the Legalwise server, which is located inCanada. TheBangalorelawyers will access that database and work off it to create legal content.

“Unlike many LPOs that send the data toIndia, we’ve taken the view thatCanadais a conservative environment and it’s more appropriate for us to be working off a system that’s located inCanada,” Birer explains. The Legalwise system offers remote access from anywhere, as long as there is an internet connection.

In the end, LPOs are being judged by results: their ability to compete on cost flexibility, rapid turnaround, and quality.

As for the optics of doing business with LPO companies, Birer has noticed a major shift in attitudes even among law firms.

There was a time when they worried that outsourcing legal files toIndiawould reflect poorly on the quality of their service.

Those that sent work abroad might even keep quiet about it. Now, law firms are beginning to point to their outsourcing of legal work as “a badge of honour,” says Birer.

“Because if you’re not doing it, are you truly giving value to your clients?

Lawyers in India are raking in work for an increasing number of Canadian businesses by charging fees as low as $25 an hour, states an article in the latest Canadian Bar Association publication.

With over one million lawyers trained in the fundamentals of common English law and thousands more graduating every year, India is quickly becoming the preferred destination for Legal process outsourcing (LPO), said author Patti Ryan in the latest issue of the CBA’s National magazine.

The perception of outsourcing legal work abroad is quickly changing, as the frenetic growth of the LPO market has shown. According to Forrester Research, an independent research firm, LPO revenues will grow from an estimated $640-million in 2010 to more than $4-billion by 2015.

Though some LPOs have operations in the Philippines, South Africa or elsewhere, India remains the preferred offshore delivery location — and for good reason, said Gavin Birer of Legalwise the first dedicated LPO to open in Canada in 2006.

Birer reckons that the growing acceptance of LPO comes mostly from corporate law departments.

Indeed, following the economic downturn of the past couple of years, companies were forced to take a harder look at their total legal spend. “Show me a general counsel today who doesn’t have pressure on budgets and pressure on resources,” says Birer. Shipping work to India can cost as little as one-tenth of what it would cost in Canada. Typical rates for LPO services are around $25 per hour.

But as they experienced the benefits of high-quality work being done at lower cost, legal departments also have come to realize that having a dedicated workforce on the other side of the world offers a number of other advantages, including round-the-clock coverage, efficient project management and a better resource allocation.

When Canadian lawyers are packing it in and heading home for the night, Indian lawyers are starting their days.

Many files can be returned to clients by the next morning. That’s “24/5 functionality,” says Birer.

And while some lawyers see outsourcing as a threat to their livelihood — in Connecticut, a bill was introduced earlier this year to prohibit the outsourcing of the drafting, review or analysis of legal documents — others like what they get out of it.

By handling high volumes of repetitive work, LPOs make it easier for lawyers in the home country to focus on higher-end work.

“If you’ve got a 10-person department and you think you’re going to be able to replace your 10 lawyers with these 10 in India, you’re looking at it wrong. If you’re looking at supplementing the work your department does with a very solid resource, then yes.”

When Birer founded Legalwise in 2006, it was the first Canadian LPO. Another Canadian outfit, LexEdge, entered the fray in 2007, and there are several international players that have made a name for themselves: Mindcrest, Quislex, CPA Global, Pangea 3, Evalueserve and Integreon Managed Solutions Inc.

Birer has 25 lawyers working in two offices in Bangalore, but expects to double or even quadruple the size of his legal team over the next year or so. Legalwise lawyers are full-time salaried employees.

According to Ramya Ramachandra, a Legalwise managing lawyer in Bangalore, the challenge of adhering to rigorous standards is not taken lightly. But attracting talented lawyers to work for an LPO is easy enough.

For many Indian lawyers a career with an LPO is considered a “preferred choice,” she says.

“The pay package at an LPO, the work-life balance it offers, the unique opportunity for Indian lawyers to get a Western style experience and the growth opportunities available are some of the reasons why LPOs are gaining increasing popularity,” she says. “The perception that veteran legal professionals have toward the LPO industry is gradually changing too.”

In terms of her own career, Ramachandra says joining Legalwise has been a smart move. She had been working at a traditional law firm, but didn’t enjoy the traditional “sink or swim” approach.

She appreciates that Legalwise offers her an opportunity to hone her business and management skills, and says her prospects there look promising, with plenty of room or growth.

Since LPO lawyers can be required to do a lot of routine, repetitive work, it might be fair to wonder whether the “cream of the crop” prefer to concentrate their energies elsewhere, the aricle’s author noted.

But as Ramachandra points out, lawyers everywhere have to do repetitive work at least some of the time, whether they’re based in India or Canada, at a law firm, LPO or law department.

In fact, she says the higher-end LPOs in India are attracting highly capable lawyers who are interested in working with international clients.

When clients are ready to send work to Legalwise, they upload documents and data themselves directly to the Legalwise server, which is located in Canada. The Bangalore lawyers will access that database and work off it to create legal content.

“Unlike many LPOs that send the data to India, we’ve taken the view that Canada is a conservative environment and it’s more appropriate for us to be working off a system that’s located in Canada,” Birer explains. The Legalwise system offers remote access from anywhere, as long as there is an internet connection.

In the end, LPOs are being judged by results: their ability to compete on cost flexibility, rapid turnaround, and quality.

As for the optics of doing business with LPO companies, Birer has noticed a major shift in attitudes even among law firms.

There was a time when they worried that outsourcing legal files to India would reflect poorly on the quality of their service.

Those that sent work abroad might even keep quiet about it. Now, law firms are beginning to point to their outsourcing of legal work as “a badge of honour,” says Birer.

“Because if you’re not doing it, are you truly giving value to your clients?



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