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 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Indian LPOs and the Banyan Tree

Like the banyan tree in India, that does not grow to a great height but puts down roots any which way, expanding its girth endlessly, legal process outsourcing is putting out roots in the most unexpected places and spreading as wide.    

Most LPOs offer document reviews legal research and back office work. Most LPOs in Pune, where, if I say so myself, the most talented lawyers roost, do almost all court-related document work for foreign law firms. Inevitably attorneys abroad having experienced the bliss of being free of the drudgery of endless form-filling , repetitive correspondence, data and records maintenance, carrying out background research, and at the same time saving massively on overheads, have passed on that bliss to associated industries like health and insurance sectors. 
LPOs now offer law firms the latest technological services,  medico-legal services, related insurance and voice- calling services, in addition to the purely legal work they do. 
Every new technological development brings on some added service that can be provided to the client.
One very telling example of this is a service provided by Paul C Easton .
Mr. Easton offers to law firms, a 3rd party web-page capture/report/seal service. What this simply means is that the LPO seizes upon a page-proof tech processes, with the intention of preserving it as evidence in a pending or anticipated court trial. (I found it diabolically clever.Reminded me of Perry Mason who was a lawyer but behaved like a detective, snooping around, collecting evidence and flourishing it in court, to the consternation of the prosecution.)
Similar would be the consternation of a claimant in a BI case who having claimed that he cannot play tennis as he used to because of the injuries sustained in the accident, is then presented with an authenticated web-page(possibly his blog page or an update he had put on a social website), where he merrily claims:  “Had a good game at the tennis club. The drinks suck, though.”
Almost half of his claim flies out of the window.  Faced with such incontrovertible evidence he might decide to settle the matter out of court.  Even if he doesn't the insurance company still stands to gain.  Of course, the service would work both ways.

Apart from the savings to law firms resulting from out-of-court settlements, litigation expenses are further reduced because the profits are in dollars whereas the outsourced service is paid for in rupees.  I do see other Indian LPOs offering this and other even more innovative services, that will inevitably come into existence the more we start clouding.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

10 Steps to an easy crossing to -This Side of the Pond:

(Inspired by Thomas Kennedy’s post on effectively managing and leading global and virtual project teams.)

Chicken Crossing Road Royalty Free Stock Vector Art Illustration
 1. Don ’t worry so much about working with us. We have centuries of experience dealing with foreigners.  Persians, Turks, Romans, Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, British, French; they’ve all been here, had fun, made lots of money. So will you.  And this time around, so will we.  

2. You find our accents terrible.   We understand.  We find some of our regional and non-metro accents somewhat “difficult” too.  Indeed, some of our accents are so strong, that no amount of emerying by the best convent schools can get rid of them.  (We suggest that if a task doesn’t need speaking why insist on vendors speaking accent-less English?)

Incidentally, we find some of your accents and slang incomprehensible too. So, do speak slowly and follow up with a written communication which will ensure that everyone concerned is on the same page. 

3. As mysterious as a “lassi” is, to many of you, Budweisers are to us.  When you refer to Big Nick- we may not realize that you’re referring to a burger joint and not to a person. And when you say Snocat, surely you mean a leopard in the Himalayas?  If you’re talking about something peculiar to your country, many of us may never have heard of it so don’t leave us to guess what it is.  Make it a point to explain what you’re talking about.

4.     We turn our nights into days for you.  But dawn can be a killing time.  Literally. Try to wind up before 3 a.m. (OUR time)

5.    If you’re not tech savvy just say so at the beginning.  We’ll hold your hand and lead you through. Do not wait, hoping for enlightenment until we’re well into our spiel and THEN say you’re not.

6.   A sense of humor is not our strong point, and on conference calls particularly, we may not realize that you’re kidding.  So if you do happen to be in a funny mood, make sure everyone is laughing.

7.   Do not mention underwear, yours or anyone else’s when in a conversation with Indian colleagues. Just don’t.  And don’t say you don’t. You do.

8.   Indians irrespective of religion, tribe and caste, think it extremely bad mannered to eat without inviting anyone around, guest, stranger or servant, to eat too. Do not bite into that sandwich without asking your Indian colleague whether he’d like some. Rest assured, you will not have to share your meal.  Every Indian knows that such invitations are just ‘observing the niceties’ and would never dream of accepting, no matter how hungry they are.

9.   We love long complicated ceremonies, getting married takes us weeks, we have dozens of festivals. Get clarity on which holidays are absolutely indispensable to this side of the pond and which are not, in the beginning of the year itself.  Just so you can manage timelines efficiently.

10.   We know all the 4-letter words and use them too.  But it’d be nice not to see them in mails even if they’re not meant for anyone in particular.

Hey, even if you don’t follow any of the above, you’ll still have a wonderful crossing.  Enjoy!