Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mary or Merry-what's in a name?

Several years ago I wrote on the importance of English in the business of outsourcing.   That truth remains unchanged.  Sadly the quality of English taught in most of our schools has not improved.  Earlier convent and missionary schools were the ultimate bastions of impeccable English.   But with our education laws insisting on interfering with school boards the English taught there is not what it was.  There are private schools where the State does not tread, but the less said about the education that "international" schools offer the better.

Last month there was this fresher who came in for an interview.  A smart, young, lady prattling in fairly good English.  Glancing at her resume I saw she had spelt the name of her school, "St. Merry's".  Surprised, I googled the school and of course it was "St. Mary's."  Perhaps it was a typo?
Prepared to give her the benefit of doubt, without pointing out her error I asked her to spell out the name of her school. "M-e-r-r-y" came the answer.
When I suggested it might be M-A-R-Y,  she looked puzzled for a moment, and then nodded giggling. (Yes she did.)
 After spending 12 years writing the name of her school, in every single book, perhaps dozens of times a year,  and just four years since leaving that school, she could not spell the name of her school!
And she didn't seem to find anything wrong with that.  Moron.

What, after all can any school teach someone who cannot take the trouble to remember its name?

Today I had an employee, a sincere, hardworking girl but English-language handicapped,  come in telling me that the insurer's letter asked for healthcare denials.  What the document actually said was that the bills had been partly paid by healthcare. Sigh. 
Girl, if you cannot read and interpret simple things like that, how can you ever be able to understand the immensely complicated and convoluted terms that attorneys normally use?   That one is headed for the chopping block.

That said, there's no need to be disheartened, you. There are plenty of giant LPOs that deal in work requiring only average English language skills.  And the work is repetitive. So once you learn what is needed, you're good for the next few years.  Or the next process anyway.  Just make sure you are able to make it through the interview speaking only in English. Let the accent go hang.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

10 years in Legal Outsourcing-5 facts for you

I've been too busy dealing with outsourced business to keep up my blog.  Still am. But having just about finished a decade in the outsourcing business successfully (touchwood!) and looking at the number of page views here (as compared to the page views for my other blog Notebook, which I think is the more interesting blog) I thought I should revive this blog. Particularly since I have years of experience to share. Since this comes after a long hiatus, this is going to be a short entry.

5 things you must accept when in the outsourcing business-
1. No matter how high up the ladder you are, you're never going to be as rich as your outsourcers.
2. The fewer the number of middlemen/women involved in getting the business to you, the richer you are.
3. The only thing your outsourcers are concerned about is money.
4. The only thing you should be concerned about is the quality of work outsourced.
5. There are levels and levels in outsourced tasks,  but if you're lucky enough to get real litigation work, there's nothing more exciting!

See you soon.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

For a Few Pennies More or Less...

I am one of those unfortunates who find it difficult to lie.  (In my defense, this, as some other small things, can be squarely blamed on the nuns at the convent school I attended.)  The inability to lie, although it sounds very virtuous, in fact, makes life difficult, because very often, we blurt out the truth when the occasion begs for a lie!   Although everyone glorifies “truth” in the abstract, no one really likes truthful persons.  We are labeled, “rude”, “blunt”, “politically incorrect” and therefore, while universally trusted, we are, nonetheless, mostly disliked.

Now,  although lawyers are widely supposed to be liars, I  happen to believe very firmly that if  success is built on the foundation of subterfuge, lies and deceit, it belittles you. Makes you small. And so, long ago, I decided that I’d rather be a shining failure than a smutty success.  That I have never really tasted failure, could be evidence, I think, to the fact that goodness (and good people) can be far more devastating and ruthless than evil!

Recently however, I received a long tutorial on the art of lying, without actually lying.

I began by pointing out that what I had written was the truth.

Yes, they agreed, it surely is.  But you know what, if you DON’T point out the truth, we'll win this.

But, what’s the point of winning on the back of lies and untruths?

It’s not lying.  It’s just hiding the truth.

But you know what the truth is and you know you’re hiding it even if the other party doesn’t. And at some point, they will know it too.

Oh, by the time they found out, we’ll have won!

But they’ll know you concealed the truth.

Too bad.

They might think you're untrustworthy.

Ha! They do it too.

Isn’t it better to fight fair?

Perhaps. But in business it's better to fight to win.

Damn. I forgot the law isn't a profession anymore. It's business.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bashing up the Bullies.

Nasty, rude behavior, back biting, bullying can make the workplace miserable. But running away from it doesn’t help.  You might find it at some other workplace too.  Nor is it always possible to change such behavior.  Yet simply enduring is not a happy option either.   The only way to deal with such workplace behavior is to devise smart tactics to handle the creeps who indulge in it.  The bright side is that most bullies, whether male or female are usually not very bright and are definitely insecure which is the reason they resort to such behavior in order to hide their own limitations.   So, with a little intelligence, a lot of calm and the ideas given below, you can wipe the floor with them.

1.       Kill them with kindness.  Be nice, be courteous, return their nastiness with sweetness. (Of course, cursing their black hearts all the while.)  Pretend you just can’t believe they really mean to be rude or nasty.  One colleague I knew wrote simply horrible e-mails.  At first, I was aghast. Then I began replying to such mails by telling him I didn’t believe he really meant to say all that or asking him whether the work was getting him down, why was he sounding so stressed and could I help? It took some effort, but after a while he stopped.
2.       Ask questions. The moment you find some person or a group of persons making snide comments or acting rude, ignore what they said and start asking them questions.  Ask anything. Where did you get that shirt? When is Rupa getting married?  How is Mona’s baby?  What does Coalgate mean?  Humans are conditioned to reply to questions.  The bullies will have to do a mental shift to answer your questions and thereby you  avoid a situation.
3.      Never be rude.  Not ever. The moment you begin to indulge in similar behavior, you leave yourself wide open to other people behaving the same with you.   Although it is true that one bad apple may ruin the basket, yet decency is contagious too.
4.       Ask for Help .It is always a good idea to approach management for a solution.  If no help is forthcoming, stand up for yourself. Point out to the person/s who are bullying you or being rude to you, that you do not like bit.  Make sure they realize that you are not going to run away from them, (which is what they want) but will fight to the bitter end to deal with them.  Bullies are cowards.  The moment they see your determination, they'll have their tails between their legs..
5.       Keep yourself busy. You are at the office to do a job. Immerse yourself in it.  Take your lunch out of the office. Take walks in your break time. Talk to cheerful people.  This will help take your mind off the negativity.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Co-sourcing and LPOs

Co-sourcing was once seen as an alternative to outsourcing and often argued as a better one. 

Co-sourcing is getting an outside agent to do your work while production, time and quality are managed in house. When you co-source, you are still very involved in the job although not as much as if you did it yourself.    Outsourcing too involves an outside agent to do the work; however once delivery and quality parameters are set, the client leaves everything to the offshore/outsourcing vendor to handle.   Often where off shored back office legal work is concerned, all that remains for the attorney to do is appear in court.

Some years ago, law firms abroad preferred co sourcing to offshoring/outsourcing chiefly in order to minimize the apprehended risks of loss of confidentiality and client data.  However, the recent years which proved that in India at least, the incidence of these risks has been almost nil, have to a large extent allayed these fears. The result is that the end of 2011 saw clients who had been offshoring work for some time and reaping its benefits, now wanting some more of the pie.  Law firms that were outsourcing mainly legal work are now asking tentatively whether their offshore vendor can handle a niche project or billing, or maybe write some web content or develop customized software. ( There are also instances where off-shore vendors providing tech or engineering support have been asked to provide legal services.)

For obvious reasons, LPOs will oblige.  However, employees in LPOs are generally lawyers.   Therefore, where niche work is involved or the work is of a completely different nature from that  done in-house or  the project or process does not justify the expense of increasing employee count and consequent  infrastructure development, the vendor will hunt for a co-sourcing sub vendor who could be either an individual/s or a small unit.

The co-sourcing unit reports directly to the off-shore vendor, and is supervised both in terms of time, production and quality by the off shore vendor’s team.  However, the co-sourcing unit is never provided access to the core process or project.
For LPOs it is a win-win situation. For one, a variety of work looks good on the website.  Moreover, they keep clients happy at very little cost.  Last and certainly not the least, the profit margin is substantial since co sourcing  saves the time and money spent on increasing employee count, administration of a large staff and the cost of maintaining infrastructure facilities for that staff.

Different   LPOs deal in different types of work.  The time will come when an LPO doing mainly research or discovery related work, will be approached to do back office legal work and vice versa.  Will they then co -source to each other? Interesting thought.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Attrition and Contrition this Side of the Pond

              Recently I met a couple of  freshers, who told me this blog had motivated them to join the LPO industry.  That is good to hear but also guilt-forming since I have been neglecting writing for some time. I have also neglected to answer another  blog reader,  Varun Dixit an advocate practicing in the Mumbai High Courts, who wrote me saying he appreciates my blog and would like to know what to do to join an LPO in Mumbai.  Varun, some earlier blog posts here  will tell you all you need to join an LPO.   A simple Google search will provide you with a list of LPOs in Pune and Mumbai. All of them have websites with pages where you can post your resume. After that dude, you just walk in.   Let me know how it goes..

Which brings to mind attrition and small LPOs.
 Every business is aware and wary of the effects of attrition. And to small firms, even a small percentage of attrition may spell doom.   In India where our no-poaching laws are non existent, poaching from smaller firms by the Big Daddies is rampant.  Employees in small firms have received usually received intensive, personalized training and exposure to a variety of legal work.  Large multinationals offer these employees the lure of a higher salary, superb infrastructure, pick and drop services and a brand name, all of which is of course, irresistible  to most young professionals.

Small firms however, can control attrition, at least to some extent,  by dealing with bad managers, inequalities in salary, providing work recognition, fair appraisals ; and most important of all, maintaining free and open communication at and between all levels.  This not only gives an opportunity for  voicing opinions and grievances and clearing the air, but can provide insights about the way the company is functioning, and fresh ideas for growth. Most importantly it creates a sense of belonging among employees and  fosters loyalty to the company which prevails when the bogey of attrition looms.

There is also reverse attrition.
In many cases, within months of working for a large company, the reality of 12- hour working days, long dreary trips in cramped cabs, the impersonal atmosphere, and the intense pressures imposed by driven managers,  proves too much and many who left smaller firms long for the snug feel of a smaller office, the better hours and fewer job pressures. If these employees have been let go with no bad feeling, they want to return. That I suppose is the opposite of attrition, or may be, contrition?


Thursday, March 24, 2011

AIBE : More Grist to the LPO Mill?

The Bar Council of India has introduced the All India Bar Examination, as, among other things, a “test of an advocate’s ability to practice the profession of law in India.”

The first All India Bar Exam results are now out.   71% of the 22000 law graduates who appeared cleared the exam which effectively means there are about 16000 freshers looking for options.

Law college freshers in India have the following options:
1. Court practice.
2. Conveyancing.
3. Notary work.
4. Working with a law firm.
5. Joining a corporate office.
6. LPO firms.
Except for OPTION 6 all other options available to freshers in law require AIBE certification.
Court Practice: Most law graduates dream of donning a black coat, standing up in court and “Milord-ing” it grandly. The AIBE is compulsory for those who wish to practice law AND have graduated law after 2009-2010. Therefore unless he passes the AIBE, a fresher cannot sign his name to a vakalatnama, put in an appearance in Court in any matter, or sign a legal document as a lawyer.
Whatever else the AIBE may prepare one for however, it will not prepare the fresher for court practice. Few freshers would dare breach the portals of court rooms without the reassuring coat-tail of a senior advocate to hang upon. Law courts in India are vast terrifying mazes of rooms, corridors, and crowds of advocates and litigants milling about rubbing shoulders with bored policemen dragging strings of sleazy looking under trials. It takes a year or so for most freshers just to find their way around, more to have even a single brief in hand. Many, particularly women never get over their first taste of court life.
Working for a senior advocate is the easiest way to begin court practice. Many freshers do their “junior-ship” with senior advocates and some remain “juniors” well into retirement age. Although most seniors pay a pittance and rarely allow their “juniors” to do more than perhaps file an application on their behalf in court or occasionally argue minor matters but with the senior aging, juniors often manage a decent practice although still under the senior’s umbrella.

Conveyance Practice:
In the last decade, many wise lawyers have concentrated solely on conveyance law. Drafting property sales and lease documents, registering deeds, is always a very lucrative occupation no matter what the state of the estate market.

Some lawyers manage to wangle a notary license which believe me, requires a lot of political clout. A license to notarize allows lawyers to sell court fee stamps and to stamp and notarize documents for a fee. These lawyers may of course continue a court practice but that often means they lose out on clients who need their notarization services and many prefer to concentrate on just being notaries, which after all guarantees a sure fee.


Law firms and corporate offices:
Many bright freshers who are unable to stomach the heat and dust of Indian courts prefer the sophisticated ambience of corporate offices or law firms. Few of them will ever see the inside of a court room, working as they do mainly in the back offices but corporates pay well.

The wisest are those who join legal process outsourcing companies. (LPOs) All you need is a law degree. No appearing or waiting for an AIBE certificate. Moreover, most LPOs do not mind their employees practicing in Courts as well. Many LPO employees have their “sanads” (license to practice in Court) practicing as and when time permits thus having their cake and eating it too.

My earlier posts have discussed the type of work you can do in an LPO and what else you need to get into an LPO