Wednesday, August 2, 2006


A strong case for legal outsourcing
Arvinder Kaur

With LPO (legal process outsourcing) expected to create 79,000 jobs in India by 2015, it is being tipped as the next big thing after BPO.

Except for fighting court cases in New York or London for law firms there, Indian lawyers are doing everything else for their western counterparts—litigation support, contract review, patent writing and paralegal services.

Legal process outsourcing (LPO), as it is being called, has very high growth potential, and according to latest estimates, it can fetch 79,000 jobs in India by 2015.

According to Nasscom, estimates of current addressable market potential for legal services outsourcable from the USA alone are pegged at $ 3-4 billion. It is estimated that only 2-3 per cent of the potential market has been tapped so far.

“At present there are just a handful of companies which are into legal outsourcing. But the field has a lot of needs time to grow,” says Kaviraj Singh of Trustman Group, which is into legal outsourcing.

Lawful business

“Indian lawyers have an advantage as far as getting work from the UK or US, which is the largest market, is concerned. Both our and the American system are based on the British legal system,” he says, noting, “Since a lot of security issues and transfer of private data is concerned, it will take some time to win over their psyche.” But the Indian lawyers fully understand these issues and are capable of handling all such data, says Singh.

“Lawyers in India charge a pittance in comparison to their counterparts in the US, where legal services are billed at a whopping $ 125-150 per hour. In India, the same job costs $ 20-30 per hour,” says Shiwal Satyarthi, a lawyer with an outsourcing firm.

Advantage India

“With salary here between 10 to 15 per cent of that for US lawyers and a turnaround time of 24 hours for outsourced work, LPO is catching on quickly. While the industry is rather nascent at present, with just a handful of big firms bagging these contracts, it is poised to become a major sector of outsourcing in the coming years,” says Satyarthi.

If India is able to leverage its low-cost advantage, jobs will flow in not only from the USA but also from UK, Australia, Singapore and other Commonwealth countries, he says.

Emerging as the global counsel

According to reports, Canadian lawyers too have started outsourcing legal work to India.

India has been referred to in international business publications as the “global counsel” because of its massive potential.

According to a recent Nasscom study, MNCs, international law firms, publishing houses and legal research firms are seeking specialised legal knowledge processing services from India.

This is a big opportunity for India, which churns out close to three lakh law graduates every year.

Work being offshored

“Though a bulk of the legal work considered offshore-able comprises paralegal and secretarial support, a few companies are planning to ‘push the envelope’ to offer a broader range of more value-adding services like contract review, patent writing, litigation support, general research and review,” says Nasscom.

“The processes being outsourced have evolved from transcription, secretarial support, voice messaging and word processing to more domain-specific paralegal work. However, patents is the next big area Indian lawyers are eying,” adds Satyarthi. PTI