Monday, January 19, 2009

Types of Jobs in LPOs

To conclude the discussion in my last post, on the type of work you could find in an LPO.

Legal Research Projects: This is really enjoyable work but does require some experience in actually conducting research. Unfortunately, the syllabus for the LL.B. and the BSL.LLB. course followed in our colleges, does not provide any training in conducting legal research. However, the Masters’ degree course in Law does, and if you would like to be entrusted with this sort of high-end work it would be better if you equip yourself with an LLM from a good University. (Yes, that makes a difference!) Nevertheless, even that degree is useless if you do not have a grasp over the English language and a keen analytical mind.

A good researcher understands thoroughly the subject he/she is researching; is able to comb through, sift, and filter all the matter collected and ultimately judge what is relevant for the project and what is not. Many LPOs employ freshers to do the base research because freshers are cheap labor. Freshers do not take on the responsibility of deciding which material needs to be jettisoned and which retained, with the result that a load of every and each nugget of information on the subject is put up before the senior researchers, who do the ultimate sifting and filtering. This is a serious waste of time and money, with projects having killing deadlines.

The baseline is that in order to do legal research, you need to be either very good at legal analysis, or you just go get that LLM degree. In either case, make sure your English is good.

Drafting: While you may have been drafting documents, deeds and notices in Indian courts, drafting US and UK legal documents is not exactly the same thing. For one, although UK and Indian laws have a similar base, the legal language there is far superior. Each country also has a definite pattern of drafting documents, which you will learn once you jump into the drafting field, provided you have a flair for the language. This, coupled with a good legal degree, and a little bit of training from the LPO, and you could be all set to work on drafting documents.

Legal transcription: While this generally figures as low end work, it is extremely difficult to get good legal transcriptionists in India, which is the reason why few LPOs handle it. Nowhere else is a command over the language as essential as in this field. Transcription is a process of listening to voice audios and transcribing as you listen and a good legal transcriptionist needs to be able to understand the accents of US and UK attorneys and have some knowledge of the laws of that country. In the US particularly, accents differ depending on the region. Moreover, most attorneys are overworked, harassed persons, whose dictations are peppered with asides and often garbled. Yet, accuracy is essential. Since transcription work often involves court orders and depositions, even a word out of place could prove fatal.

Legal editing: This is the easiest of all LPO jobs. All you need is knowledge and excellence in every other field of work!!! The bright side is that you don’t need to be too tech savvy and you are allowed to be temperamental.

Next post: What would I look for in a prospective LPO employee?

If you have any inputs, criticisms, brickbats, whatever, it would be helpful if you post comments, rather than e-mailing me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What do I need to join an LPO?

A visit last week, to the courts at Pune convinced me that there are dozens of lawyers out there, longing for a career change. As one of my previous posts mentioned, court corridors in India are not everyone's cup of tea . (Most law students have terrified, glazed expressions after the mandatory college court-visit.) Old lawyer friends, some with 15 and 20 years of experience in law, fledgling lawyers, gathered around wanting some inputs about legal process outsourcing. It's not possible to give impromptu lectures on outsourcing and I said so. The matter might have ended there, had not several telephone calls from lawyers I have never heard of convinced me that I must do something. I have decided therefore, to use this site to 'educate' people about how to go about building a career in outsourcing. This post addresses a couple of the very basic questions asked by some of them:

What special training do I need for getting into an LPO?- No special training is required. Your law degree ( the higher the degree and more the diplomas to your credit, the better,) and a basic knowledge of computers is essential. Some LPOs even function with a staff of mainly computer professionals with a few legal professionals thrown in. But let's not go into that. Essential also, is a good command over the English language.

This unfortunately, is what is most lacking in Indian lawyers. They know to read and write English but spoken English needs serious improvement. I suggest spoken English classes (e-mail me for details) and a continuous practice at reading, writing and speaking in English.

In a previous post, I have spoken about the Global Legal Professional Certification Test and provided the link. Look it up. To my knowledge no LPOs in Pune demand this test, but it would be good to have this under your belt, just to get an edge over the competition.

Generally, what most outsourcing firms look for while recruiting is a candidate with a degree in law, a basic knowledge of computers and a good command over English. If you have specializations in subjects like patents, taxation or cyber law etc. that would definitely be an added asset.

What sort of work would I get to do in an LPO?- This too is discussed in a previous post. At present it is mostly mundane, form-filling work that is available. Some of the older LPOs do have document review work and coding. While the work of filling in forms, (summons, warrants, bankruptcy forms), is easy and anyone can do it, it can get very monotonous.

Document review is more interesting. For this, you will need to be able to read a document, (here is why you need good English), and identify whether the document is relevant or not. Relevancy would be explained to you in the training provided by the Project Director before you begin the project. Your success at this job on how good you are at interpreting the language in a document. A little experience in the legal field, in reading legal documents, court depositions and the like is necessary. You need to have at least looked at a few patents, licenses, sale deeds, mortage documents and similar documents, so you know what you are looking at.

Coding also requires similar skills. Most professionals get adept at document review and coding work once they are through a project or two. So, unless you scraped through your law examinations you should be able to do both document review and coding work, provided of course, as I said you have a couple of years' experience in the legal field.

What about freshers? Many LPOs employ freshers for their coding jobs. Some coding jobs only require data entry type of operations, filling in dates, tagging documents which contain 'relevant' words or communications, which can easily be done by anyone with some knowledge of law and computers. Again a good command over English is essential.

There are other types of work done in LPOs, which will be discussed in my next post. Also discussed would be - what I would look for if I were recruiting a candidate. Wait for it. Until then practice your English.