September 21, 2010
Indian lawyers’ standards have risen in the eyes of top American law firms that have done legal process outsourcing (LPO) to here. The lawyers hired by LPOs over time have become skilled enough to review the work of US lawyers, they say.
For instance, the Mysore team of SDD Global, the Indian subsidiary of SmithDehn LLP, a New York-based law firm, is now checking for English and editing drafts of US lawyers. The usual high-end model till now has been that of Indian LPO employees preparing only drafts and for the US lawyers/clients to review these. “The most surprising new work, besides editing for English, is the Mysore team’s legal review of US lawyers’ drafts for errors in substance,” said Russell A Smith, president and chairman, SDD Global Solutions, an LPO with offices in Mysore. Smith is a partner at SmithDehn LLP. “I never would have predicted this,” he added.
A recent American Bar Council Journal article compared the scenario to a ‘man bites dog’ story. “Indian LPO companies have taken a lot of heat from US lawyers for siphoning of work, but they (the latter) now may need to steel themselves against editors,” said the article. Smith said: “We never expected lawyers in India to be correcting grammer and legal writing efforts of US attorneys.” Also, American lawyers are too busy, law firms are under huge cost pressure and, therefore, unable to take time to do a perfect or near-perfect draft.
Till some time ago, Indian lawyers were seen to be using lofty English — a vestige of colonial rule. Their sentences were long-winding. “Today, they are good with plain, crispy, clear and clean English writing. In fact, LPOs have made them think global and grow global. American lawyers are liking it, a high-quality second look at the draft,” he added.
“Though much of the less complicated legal work is being outsourced to India, in the case of patent filing, there are a few jobs for drafting and crafting that are being outsourced to India by the US law firms,” said Shamnad Basheer, Ministry of HRD professor in IP Law, National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.
With cost pressures still affecting firms abroad, they are looking to cut legal costs. As a result, as they continue to outsource work to India, they realised they could cut costs further if they went beyond document revision. “So, they have begun to offshore document drafting, too, and so you now have document drafting and revision being done by LPOs in India,” said S R Arun, partner, ALMT Legal. The best the Indian LPOs earlier did was contract management and some related works, now LPOs have moved up to e-discovery for large foreign firms, abstraction of evidence and such others. Also, third party affidavit preparation, said Sajan Poovayya, partner, Poovayya & Co.