Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quality in LPOs


Having read a lot about the concern about quality deficient work that would result from outsourcing work to India and elsewhere, I am convinced that that is one hurdle that can, and has been, easily overcome.

Training young lawyers in an LPO firm, I was amazed to find that they knew more about US and UK laws than the laws in India. They could tell me about euthanasia provisions for animals in the UK but had no idea if similar provisions existed in India. They knew all about insurance law in the US, but asked if we have anything like this here, they were unsure. This will be the trend henceforth if globalization and outsourcing legal jobs goes as predicted. Indian lawyers, especially the fresh graduates will have a degree in Indian law and be practicing US and UK law.

Having seen work done by young lawyers in the US and similar work done by Indian lawyers here, the mistakes that young trainee solicitors make both sides of the pond are similar. Here as there, they need proper training and strict supervision, at least initially. Having tried that in an LPO here, I can vouch that provided with both, Indian lawyers are performing as well and in some cases better than their US counterparts.

What is really dampening is that where both US and Indian lawyers happen to be working on the same matter, the US lawyer automatically assumes that any error in the case is the work of the India team. Maybe he has reason. But what is worse is that the Indian team is quite willing to assume that somehow it must be their fault. This, I think, is the effect of years of British rule which has left us with a definite inferiority complex.

It took some time and a lot of training to build up enough confidence in employees so they would finally be able to say, “Hey look, you’re doing it wrong. This is the way to do it.” Fortunately outsourcing law firms are businessmen first and foremost. If the work is good, they do not have a chip on the shoulder admitting that it is good and paying for it.

There are some concerns expressed abroad that their trainee lawyers, might not have any work to train on if it was being outsourced. A similar concern is expressed by the Indian judiciary which is worried about young legal talent being absorbed into LPOs and the Indian Judiciary which is already famishing for lack of good judges regressing still further. (LPOs are not the reason we do not have good Indian judges, but that is another story. )

In my opinion, these concerns are insubstantial. First of all, not all legal work is going to be outsourced. Second, most of the work is going to be back office work. Thirdly, in India at least, only those lawyers join LPOs who realize that they do not have the required canniness which is absolutely necessary, and indeed the only perquisite, for practicing in Indian courts.

And anyway, the world, as we all know by now, is flat and there is nothing to stop us all from moving where the money is, without falling off it.