Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Indian Lawyers Perform US Law Work - A Welcome Trend

Today's Wall Street Journal carried yet another article on the usage of Indian lawyers to perform various US legal tasks. Note that we are talking about US law matters, whether litigation support or contract matters, and not usage of Indian lawyers for advice on Indian law. We are aware of in-house legal teams pushing this trend more than law firms and recall that GE received some publicity a few years back when it kept an India-based team to handle some US law matters.

Why is this a good thing? The US corporate/commercial legal industry heavily emphasizes the buidling of large firms to carry-out the kinds of legal work that can maximize the billable productivity of partners and associates. Without substantial competition from other law firms and types of legal service providers, there is little incentive for such large firms to find ways to reduce their costs and pass-on the benefits to clients. Since many Indian lawyers have fine academic credentials and wonderful English-speaking abilities, we will likely see ever more sophisticated work being transferred to India and elsewhere (the Philippines, for example).

By the way, many refer to the transfer of legal work to India as another form of "outsourcing," though "outsourcing" has become an overused buzzword to describe a fundamental aspect of our free-market system. Having work performed by those with a competitive advantage due to pricing, performance and other factors is the nature of the beast, whether the work is limited to a single economy or includes a transfer of production across borders.

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