Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Online Roundtable Discussing Outsourcing in the Legal World

Darryl Mountain sent me this link that has the transcript of an online rountable discussing "Inside vs. Outside: When Does it Make Sense for Law Firms to Outsource?" Great read for anyone interested in legal outsourcing.

The patrician panel comprised Ron Friedmann, Dennis Kennedy, Darryl Mountain, Stephen M. Nipper , John Tredennick, Wendy L. Werner, all known names in the legal technology circles.

Some quotable quotes:

I've talked to lawyers who'd like to explore offshoring document review and to CIOs who want to investigate outsourcing help desks. So in my experience, outsourcing is not hype but serious consideration of this option, however, does not guarantee rapid growth.

Office Tiger provides outsourced legal secretaries to a major U.K. firm at a 3 to 1 ratio. That isn't 3 attorneys to one secretary as you might expect. Rather, that's 3 secretaries to one attorney--round the clock secretarial support for about 30,000 Euros a year

I think the biggest impact on law firms that "outsourcing" hype will cause is increasing the rate at which clients question the fees their attorneys are charging them

An old adage says that lawyers are finders (business getters), minders (relationship managers), or grinders (ones who crank out legal work). Today, lawyers who are great at "client hand holding" typically rely on a partner or associate to do the legal work. Could the minder instead outsource this to a lawyer in another organization?

Anyone can put up a shingle as an outsourcer but you don't want to be their first client. Start with a small project and build from there.

Lots can go wrong. But lots can go wrong with performing functions internally or with people you hire as employees. With outsourcing, you typically spend more time specifying requirements and monitoring performance. Others can enumerate the legal and business risks of outsourcing but a key point is to weigh these risks against the alternatives. No option is risk free.

The costs of document review in discovery will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Deploying armies of domestic lawyers to review documents is not sustainable. If document review cannot be "outsourced" to advanced software, then someone will figure out how to offshore this function to lawyers in India.

If you were to extend the trap door model, you could have a model where contracts are drafted in-house in the U.S., the Indian lawyer handles exceptions only, and the U.S. lawyer reviews the Indian lawyer’s work.

Long gone are the days of "all my client needs to know about the law is my phone number." If you don't treat 'em right, someone else will.

Students attending law universities face high debt loads and increasingly prefer to work for LPOs, which pay about the same as top-tier Indian law firms (US$10,000 per year). LPOs are able to recruit students whose grade point average is in the lower half of the class, who have experience with the use of Internet based legal resources such as Westlaw and Lexis, and who often have completed an LLM in the U.S. or the UK.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

LPO: Hope for Discouraged and Disgruntled Law Graduates?

Are you a law graduate in India? Are you fed up 'pushing files' for senior advocates? It is time for you to smile. LPO is here!

That is the gyst of Mumbai Newsline's recent article quoting young law graduates working in LPO firms such as Pangea3 and Mindcrest. A graduate is quoted as saying:

‘‘Since we undertake work for foreign firms, we are better equipped to eventually work abroad. Besides, we also get to make suggestions to our clients about their business. That’s something completely missing in Indian firms,’’ says Anand.

Global exposure, attractive compensation, good career path, and a chance to learn professionalism from the professionals are mentioned as some of the attractions for young graduates. I agree with all of these, especially the work culture bit. Indian law firms really are the best place to work, where you either have a zillion 'Sirs' or are a 'Sir' to zillion people. It all sounds so artifical!

For graduates still not decided about trying LPO (a is-there-a-proof-of-concept anxiety), the following may be some relief:

Currently, about 40 GLC students are working for legal outsourcing firms.

See also: LPO Jobs: (Probably) The answer is here! and LPO Companies in Law School Campuses

Indian LPO industry is worth billions, already: ASSOCHAM!

ASSOCHAM - The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India made a press release yesterday, titled "India's Lpo Business To Grow @ 6-7%: ASSOCHAM". The very meticulous authors of the paper talked about in the press release have the following to say about the current and expected size of Indian LPO industry:

India is inching towards registering a significant growth from its current share of 3-4% to 6-7% in the US$ 250 billion of world?s market in the Legal Process Outsourcing by 2010.

Excuse me? You mean India already has a share of 3-4% of US$250 billion? That is about $10 billion! As a judge in an Indian court will say to such ridiculous claims, dismissed with cost!

The paper, however, seems to have some new numbers:

Estimates report that by early 2006, there were over 400 professionals engaged in providing patent services such as literature searches, prior-art searches, technology and patentability assessment, patent claim mapping, etc., from India.

There are over 600 patent agents registered with the Indian Patent Office in India as well as approximately 300 IP professionals who are not. About one-third of these 900 professionals currently provide patent services to European and American end clients, and this number is likely to double to 1,800-2,000 by 2010.

These numbers look sane. That said, I have never understood the significance of someone being an Indian Patent Agent. Anyone who has ever visited those offices will know what those places or their accreditation is worth, so we should just let the numbers about IPO registered agents pass.

Another interesting number is about the outsource-able chunk of US Legal Services market.

Mr. Anil K. Agarwal, ASSOCHAM President while releasing the Paper said the conservative estimates of the current addressable market potential for legal services outsource-able from the US alone are pegged at US$ 3-4 billion. This comprises paralegal and research support, contract drafting and revising and contract management, library services, patent and trademark prosecution and litigation support.

The paper also advises some factors that those concerned about LPO in India should worry about.

The ASSOCHAM BPO Council Paper, however, says despite the encouraging prediction regarding outsourcing, legal practices are subject to a number of external forces affecting all law firms which includes changing economics, marketplace maturation, earning brand, marketing expenditures etc.

I'd just say relax, and keep thriving in the LPO industry. It is too nascent to get affected by the above factors. We'd rather brainstorm about new services that can be outsourced, new products and tools (e.g. contract management suites) that can be developed, and new partnerships that can be formed (e.g. tool developer and service vendor). Who wants to worry about marketing expenditures just yet?

Of course, ASSOCHAM will advise otherwise, they believe the LPO in India is already worth billions of dollars. They're excused!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Tiger and the Kangaroo: Treading the LPO path together

This is quite interesting!

Now, Indian LPO companies, their own infancy notwithstanding, are teaching firms in other parts of the world, a thing or two about LPO!

Shaun Dobbin from LegalResources wrote in to tell me about the LPO practice they have started in Australia. And where did they get the idea for this? From Lexsphere, an Indian provider of outsourced legal services. The companies have partnered to provide LPO services fairly across the spectrum. Here's their offering (source: company webpages, I am not in a position to comment either on the quality of such services rendered, or even if all of these are rendered presently):

Litigation support
Discovery analysis
Discovery management, presentation & access
Document abstraction, indexing & collation
Exhibit preparation

Transaction support
Customized draft transactional documents
Forms development & standardisation
Form libraries & version histories
Custom expert systems

IPR services
Application drafting
Patent & trademark searches
Patentability & infringement assessments
Status tracking

Legal research
Customized work product
Work product libraries
Work product updating
In-house research database
Newsletters & journal articles

Corporate secretarial
Incorporation documents
Statutory reports & filings
Board & shareholder resolutions & minutes
Resolution & minutes libraries
Online tickler system

Regulatory & compliance support
Application & report drafting
Document review & analysis
Rules & regulations monitoring & tracking

Administrative Services
Conflict management

Promotion & marketing
Human resource management

Business Process Consulting
Requirements & feasibility studies

Design & implementation of client-specific solutions
Management of captive staff & facilities

This is a great thing for both the partners and I hope this is among the firsts of many such partnerships between Indian and Aussie companies.

On a lighter note, the Indian LPO companies have Lexsphere and LegalResources for inspiration, the partnership is so strong, even their punchlines read "Legal Support Solutions" and "Your partner in Legal Support Solutions", respectively!

Who wants to be my partner?!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

LPO Companies in Law School Campuses

I think it is a first for law school campus placements in India. Indian Express had a news item in Pune Newsline titled, "Law graduates find new takers: Infotech majors, MNCs" that talks about this new breed of employers for fresh law graduates.

Law is not high on the pecking order in India when it comes to choosing a career. Therefore big salary numbers (an indicator of success for most) are surely a thing to rejoice.

They may not be carrying the famous tags of IITs or IIMs with their degrees, but they are the new kids on the block. From infotech majors to multinational companies, these law graduates are an important ingredient in their scheme of things. With copyrights and corporate law, mergers and acquisitions being the flavour of the season and legal process outsourcing slowly catching up, it is the traditional discipline of law that is making waves again.

From Rs 3 lakh to Rs 7 lakh per annum as the salary package, the law graduates seem to have finally arrived.

What is interesting here is that LPO companies such as Pangea3 and Mindcrest are leading the pack in grabbing this legal talent.

Besides the in-house needs for corporates, legal process outsourcing is also finding takers in law graduates. ‘‘Two of our students have been taken by Mumbai-based legal outsourcing enterprises — Pangea3 and Mindcrest,’’ ILS’ Sabne said.

Pangea3 co-founder and co-CEO Sanjay Kamlani said it was the tremendous growth in legal process outsourcing business that has led them to eye the law graduates. ‘‘ILS and Symbiosis Law School are ranked among the top 10 law institutes in India. That is the reason we are actively pursuing their students to join our organisation,’’ he said.

Naturally, LPO's good is law firm's bad.

‘Of course not all want to go in for corporate jobs. There are some who want to move on to practicing. But the former are all set to outnumber the latter — and this could be a worrying trend for the legal profession.’’

I think this emergence of a new recruiter is beneficial for the students who for long have been complaining of the sheer drudgery and politics related to work in Indian law firms. Cut the drudgery, join an LPO, today! Also see my previous post on this.

Monday, May 08, 2006

LPO Jobs: (Probably) The answer is here!

A friend of mine has started operations focussed on hiring within the LPO space. I think this is a very good step and will benefit firms and candidates alike.

The email id to mail your resumes (preferably accompanied with a cover letter) - if you are a candidate, or your job profile documents if you are a recruiter is This service is free-of-charge!

Candidates (including freshers) with a Law and/or an Engineering (any stream) background are encouraged to mail their resumes.

Hope this lends itself as a lasting solution to the recruitment problem in this space. And they said, "So be it!"

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More LPO Companies

More players join the LPO space!

Verist Research - Founded by Arjun Anand, one of the Anands (yes, of the law firm) - Focussed on IP Services

Innovar IP Consulting - One of the Directors is Komal Shah, registered US and Indian Patent Agent, previously worked with Nishith Desai Associates and Intellectual Licensing Group - Focussed on IP Services

Lexecute - Not aware of the founders - Offers a whole gamut of services, patents, trademarks, corporate services, and services towards the lower end of the spectrum

Welcome to the space!

Interestingly, two of the above three companies have Indian operations based out of Delhi. This kind of reaffirms what the last post asserted - Delhi is a favorite location for LPO companies.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Planning an LPO: Where to locate?

As a true optimist, I believe in the huge potential of LPO (hey, goes without saying, I run this blog!). Thus, I do believe that a number of firms with LPO aspirations will want to set up presence in India. The recent funding of Pangea3, should motivate other VCs to fund such firms. In the words of Shyster, "VC's are like lemmings, and if one starts investing, the others will follow"!

Since one of the objectives of this blog is to aid firms thinking about India as a place to setup an LPO shop, I compiled a list of factors - pros and cons - for some of the Indian cities that may be considered for setting up an office. Please note that this list is a quick job, and is limited by my awareness. Any amendments, suggestions to/about this list will be most gladly accepted and acknowleged.

(+) Well connected
(+) Availability of local talent, especially law graduates
(+) Some presence of competition, good news for an HR manager
(+) Presence of a lot of law firms, if that matters
(-) High costs, for the corporate and outside hires
(-) Infrastructure breaks down in certain parts hampering connectivity (2005 floods just brought the city down)
(-) Commuting distances are typically large due to geography
(-) Some presence of competition, bad news for an HR manager

(+) Tech capital of the country
(+) Ample availability of tech talent
(+) Local presence of tech companies, beneficial for aiding in local liaison
(+) Home to one of the nation’s best law school, availability of local law talent
(+) High costs
(-) Infrastructure going from bad to worse

Delhi National Capital Region (includes Delhi, and smaller adjoining towns of Gurgaon - the call center capital of India - and Noida)
(+) Infrastructure - good and improving (thank the Commonwealth Games 2010)
(+) Very well connected - National Capital
(+) Lower costs
(+) Availability of local talent, legal and technical
(+) Some presence of competition, good news for an HR manager
(+) Presence of a lot of law firms, if that matters
(-) Minor - Politically more sensitive
(-) Some presence of competition, bad news for an HR manager

Hyderabad and Chennai
(+) Well connected
(+) Lower costs
(-) Lack of local talent
(-) Not a favorite among those who need to relocate

In addition, I analysed the existing players in the market and compiled the table below. Clearly, Delhi NCR seems to be the choice among the fraternity.