Friday, August 6, 2010

Indians teach English to US attorneys

A  recent article in the Times of India, titled- Indians Teach English to US Attorneys inspired this post. The article talks of Indian lawyers correcting grammatical and other errors in legal documents drafted by US attorneys.  This is really not as unbelievable as it might appear.  In the course of the work that I do for US law firms, I have found quite a few attorneys displaying poor spellings and grammar.  Instances like, “absents of the plaintiff,” “it is not expectable” and “forgive the incontinence” (inconvenience) do, I think, prove my point.   Nevertheless, the number of Indian lawyers who can boast of possessing impeccable English is still very small.

Managing the legal work done in the LPO firm that I work for, I see that within a short span of a year and a half, the legal work outsourced to us by foreign law firms, both quantity and variety, has grown in leaps and bounds.  Since my firm deals mainly in documents, this does seem a fair indication that the newer breed of Indian lawyers is rapidly gaining proficiency in English. 

Very often, prospective LPO employees express concern that they may not qualify to work in LPO firms because of their poor English.  To them I say, take heart.   LPO firms generally deal with different types of legal work, and somewhere you are bound to suit. 

There are a few firms that handle only project work like  document reviews; and there are a few which work as back offices for law firms in the US and UK, and which handle mainly process work. And there are the enviable ones that do all types of work.

  Legal process outsourcing includes handling practically all the back-office jobs of a US/UK law firm.  Right from entering case and client data, sending letters to involved parties, drafting summons and complaints, arbitration requests, deposition transcriptions, responses and motions.

While both types require a decent knowledge of English, there is no way you can work in a firm handling legal processes without knowing the language well.  Moreover, while some firms doing project work may not even require employees to have a law degree, this is not the case with firms handling legal processes.  In order to be able to draft legal documents, one needs legal knowledge and every employee in such an LPO firm must therefore have a law degree.  While the actual statutes differ from country to country  the basic tenets of law remain the same; and as I have said here before,  some aggressive training in foreign laws quickly brings the Indian lawyer up to date with foreign law. 

Another major difference in legal project and legal process work is that most legal projects come with a time limit.    If the company does not have another project on hand where your services are required, you are out.   On the other hand legal process work is a continuous stream of work.  This is a point that will need consideration when you're wondering which LPO firm to apply for a job.

Before signing off, I should mention that to my concern, I have found that so far as knowledge of the English language in Maharashtra is concerned, except for metros like Mumbai and Pune, the rest of Maharashtra is a disaster.   Lawyers from areas in Bihar, UP and MP, who were heretofore considered “backward” so far as their knowledge of the English language was concerned, fare better than those from Maharashtra.

My fellow Maharashtrian lawyers, you do well to learn and preserve our mother tongue, but if you want to progress vertically and not have your options to work limited to municipal and local courts, it would  behoove you to learn the global language.


1 comment:

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