Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sala Main To Sahab Ban Gayaa.

If this side of the pond ponders Indian lawyers in danger of turning into clerks, the other side sees US and UK attorneys metamorphosing into top management honchos overnight.

The fear of recession even before the bogey actually arrived, led to large scale layoffs and downsizing of law firms particularly in the US. As predicted, legal process outsourcing itself apart from a slight hiccup in the early part of 2009 saw a smart pickup in the second half of the year.

With the ABA mandating strict legal supervision on all legal work that is outsourced, many LPOs set up in India have begun hiring US attorneys not only to satisfy compliance with due diligence procedures but also to increase the comfort levels of their clients. The salaries paid to these attorneys are invariably twice and thrice what an Indian lawyer is paid for the same job.

The result is that US and UK attorneys who would never otherwise have dreamed of visiting the Orient are making a beeline for India and China and happily playing leading roles in LPOs. At home, they would probably still be struggling juniors, serving summonses and recording EBTs. Here, they manage large teams of Indian lawyers and head ambitious projects. Their salaries may not be as high as what they might have earned in the US even at the lowest rung of their careers, but the lower cost of living both in India and China more than makes up for that. Furthermore, LPOs in India are based in metros where the standard of living can be even more lavish than abroad, what with malls, multiplexes, and in-house help for every chore.

LPOS here may not really need foreign attorneys, particularly those with experienced legal professionals on board. While a JD brings to the firm a deep and close knowledge of the law of his/her land; the basic concepts of law are the same in every corner of the civilized world and US and UK legal provisions and procedural laws, or at least as much of those that are needed to work on legal projects, can be easily imbibed by some focused study on the net. FindLaw.com. and other law sites on every aspect of the law, in every state, are easily available online. Bluebooking skills are not difficult for an intelligent, skilled professional.

Many Indian lawyers fear that having foreign attorneys working here is going to affect their own chances. If so, so be it. In a global setup there is no room for protectionism. The competition is open and it is fierce. And if you are really good you need not fear it. Of course there are others who believe they are as good as their US and UK counterparts and so they are; but they will just have to wade in there and prove it.

In any case, LPOs themselves are totally unconcerned about any real or imagined insecurities that Indian lawyers might be experiencing. And rightly so. Outsourcing firms are sprouting as wildly and enthusiastically here as weeds in the Indian monsoons. Survival may not be an issue to most, but growing into an entity to contend with, certainly is. And for that, every weapon available must be used. If that includes employing foreign attorneys at twice the cost of what they would pay for their highest paid Indian legal employee, well, no one is thinking twice.

Incidentally the title of this post is a popular Hindi song which loosely translated means, "Hell, I just turned into the Boss."

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