Friday, December 30, 2005

"Challenges" for LPO

Now, no industry has had an all rosy run all through. LPO is no different. Economic Times carries a story, titled "Legal outsourcing - bubble or reality?" mentioning a few of the challenges for the "sector". Well, I think the reporter recently took the Excessively Catchy Headlines 101 course. Consider a few of the challenges mentioned in the story:
  • The most important challenge to the newly-born sector is the need for Indian lawyers to pass US Bar exams, conflict of interest rules and data security. - Pass bar exams? Really? For what kind of outsourced legal services is that required? So this is a non-issue at least at the end of the spectrum the current players are operating in. For higher end services, yes more familiarity with the laws governing the client's jurisdiction are required. I use this blog to predict that a lot of the "first batches" at the LPO providers will proceed for higher education / certification abroad. That's just "evolution" - even in IT/BPO people go for domain training - not a challenge. Conflict of interest - OK, you have a point. But conflict of interests are as old as commerce itself, so there are ways to deal with it. Next? Data Security? If the reporter meant Export Control Regulations governing the nature of work ("national security concerns", and the like) that can be sent overseas, this is virtually a non-issue. The other pie, that can be outsourced is too big, so chill! If the reporter meant data security at the LPO provider premises, hey did you hear about the success with which the IT industry has implemented security standards. How much of rocket science is porting those to new - LPO - premises?
  • On the flip-side, the Indian Advocates Act, which deals with the professional conduct of lawyers, does not support work for other countries. - Frankly, from my conversation with the numerous graduates from premier law schools in India, current passouts don't really scream with joy at the prospect of working for the Indian law firms. Bad pay, bad work ethic, bad growth, "rut, essentially" - their words, not mine. So I can bet here that given a good working environment, learning and growth opportunities, many graduates wouldn't even want to be a part of the Bar. Yes, the Indian lawyers with good practices - own or otherwise - may need to think about it. But not many of those senior lawyers join LPO shops anyway. So much for the Indian Advocates Act and Bar Council Rules.
  • There is a strong political opposition in the US against outsourcing as may affect the livelihood of US attorneys may also serve as a roadblock. - Yeah, and we never heard of opposition to IT outsourcing and BPO, did we? Or probably the reporter was on break when all that happened. Bottomline is, if outsourcing of legal work saves money for the attorneys - both at law firms and corporations - they will outsource. The volume and nature of work that is outsourced may vary (and is headed northwards with each passing day), but outsource they will and they do. Period.

So, there really is no bubble that will get burst. Hey reporter, look for a new journalism school, this one isn't taking you anywhere like this!