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US norms won't hit legal outsourcing

By K Rajani Kanth in Hyderabad
June 28, 2007 04:05 IST
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The ethical guidelines proposed by three US bar associations for their attorneys will not have any adverse impact on the legal outsourcing services industry in India.

In fact, the opinions delivered by the associations legitimise the outsourcing of legal services to other countries and will lead to the market in India getting larger, according to Ram Vasudevan, president of SQ Global Solutions.

New York-based SQ Global Solutions is a joint venture between Strategic Legal Solutions, a 12-year-old US domestic legal staffing company and Quislex, a provider of offshore legal services in India. The company employs around 300 professionals, of which about 150 work out of India.

It may be recalled that three US bar associations -- New York, California and Los Angeles -- had in 2006 and early 2007 delivered opinions stating that offshoring of legal support work by lawyers in the US to other countries was ethical provided certain conditions are met.

"The guidelines state that US lawyers who are contemplating outsourcing legal services to other countries should inform their client that the work is being outsourced, besides protecting the client's confidences. The US law firm should also be closely involved in the supervision of the outsourced work. In addition, the entity performing the work must perform conflict checks to avoid any unpleasant surprises," Vasudevan told Business Standard.

He said most companies engaged in legal outsourcing work in India already adhered to the US ethical guidelines.

"Companies in India directly deal with the legal departments of US corporations and law firms for outsourcing work to avoid any issues of unauthorised practice and usually have several quality control metrics in place," he said. For instance, SQ follows the Six Sigma process.

At present, there are around 15 companies in India that provide legal outsourcing services, with the prominent among them being SQ Global Solutions, Pangea and Mindcrest.

Though not mandatory, many US law firms and attorneys have been adopting the ethical guidelines and client demand too has been picking up.

This is expected to accelerate the growth of the legal outsourcing services industry in India in the years to come. The Indian legal outsourcing industry is currently pegged at $130 million, and is expected to touch the $4-billion mark by 2015, according to Forrester Research, he added.

Stating that there was no dearth of skilled professionals in India, he said there had been a drastic change in the education system in the country with law schools, of late, training students in general legal research using US databases and giving them exposure to the US legal system.

"These schools are creating abundant human resources that benefit the requirements of the Indian industry," he said.

Currently, there are around 1,000 such professionals, both lawyers and non-lawyers, delivering high-end legal outsourcing services in India.

Going by the ever-increasing number of clients, this is expected to double every year, he said.
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K Rajani Kanth in Hyderabad
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