Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Legal Outsourcer's Checklist

The following is a checklist for, or rather a list of concerns related to, outsourcing of legal work prepared by Power Legal. Though the list is a bit biased towards Israel as a destination for legal outsourcing, companies and law firms considering outsourcing may consider the list useful:

Quality of training: How well-trained are the legal professionals employed by the outsourced services provider? While U.S. and U.K. law school programs provide relatively uniform training for the J.D. degree, law programs in other countries can vary widely from institution to institution. For example, coursework for the LL.B. degree in India may last from three to five years—a significant variance that signals a variety of different focuses and emphases in different programs.

Control over the team: Does the vendor provide resumes of each potential project team member, allowing the client to hand-select the staff working on a particular project?

Legal customs and business practices: Does the outsourcing services provider understand the nuances of U.S. legal culture? For instance, interpretations of attorney-client privilege vary widely across different legal systems. Misunderstandings can lead to inadvertent delivery of documents to the other side in the course of litigation—a potentially grievous error.

Cultural literacy and linguistic fluency: Legal professionals overseas typically are fluent in English—but does that mean in contemporary U.S. or British English? Due to the schooling of some countries, lawyers overseas in markets like India often lack an appreciation for and knowledge of contemporary U.S. business vernacular, which can slow or disrupt document review.

Data security: How can a company protect trade secrets and other highly privileged information when transitioning work overseas? How can a company ensure data’s protection once it gets there?

Costs: What are the true costs of offshore outsourcing—and how does a company know? Lower hourly rates for labor may not account for increased investments in managing outsourced providers; assessing each legal professional for legal, cultural and language proficiency; and monitoring for quality, especially for higher-level work.

Ability to oversee work: How can a client evaluate the productivity and effectiveness of its offshore legal services provider? Not all offshore companies have sophisticated monitoring “dashboards” where clients can check on the progress of their projects, nor do all have proficiency with leading electronic search and database management technologies.