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August 7, 2008

Outsourcing Legal Services Overseas

Since the late ’80s, many law firms have been outsourcing some of its basic administrative work, such as duplicating documents and messengering mail. Over time, outsourcing has increased in popularity, especially given client demands to reduce costs. Today, these services as well as more complex work are being outsourced to companies in developing countries like India and the Philippines.

Panelists in “Outsourcing Legal Services Abroad,” a presidential CLE sponsored by the Law Practice Management Section at the ABA Annual Meeting, examined the issues regarding this trend.

Panelist Ron Friedmann of outsource company Integron shared that his clients have been satisfied with legal work done in developing countries.

Panelist Ron Friedmann of outsource company Integron shared that his clients have been satisfied with legal work done in developing countries.

“Outsourcing is really an extension of what lawyers have long done—delegating work to others,” said Ron Friedmann, senior vice president of marketing for Integreon, a legal process outsource company that has an operation in Mumbai, India. However, Friedmann went on to caution that there are some concerns with the practice, such as the possible breaching of confidential information. To alleviate this concern, Integreon maintains tight security measures, including restricting certain items from the work premises, designating special clearance for employees, installing locked doors and video surveillance cameras, and providing a dedicated delivery center for each client.

Panelist D. James Lantonio, visiting professor of Stoney Brook University Graduate School of Business, said that some clients have concerns about the quality of work being done, but his experience has been positive. “When I worked at Millbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy LLP, we outsourced our word processing and designed an electronic feedback survey to assess satisfaction.” India had a 97-99 percent satisfaction rating whereas the work being done in their offices in New York had 70-75 percent satisfaction.

Lantonio went on to add that this could be attributed to the fact that fewer individuals are being properly trained for or want lower-level jobs these days. He also said that it’s difficult for big law firms to manage operations where there are no set career paths for staffers in those jobs or the opportunity to grow their skill sets.

Issues aside, legal outsourcing overseas is gaining in popularity. Sally King, regional chief operating officer for Clifford Chance LLP, had some words of advice for firms looking for a legal outsourcer– “one size definitely doesn’t fit all and the bottom line shouldn’t be the only motivation. Do what’s culturally applicable for your firm. You need to pick someone who works well with you.”

Learn More About:  Annual Meeting 2008