Posts Tagged ‘India’

Paralegal Outsourcing – India is too far!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Over a year ago I did a post entitled, Paralegal Outsourcing: Is India too far?” noting, “If an attorney in Boston can “supervise” a virtual paralegal located in San Francisco, could she not also do so with one located in India? Since licensing is not required in the United States, is the door open to this sort of outsourcing? Perhaps, it is happening already. If any of you know, I’d like to hear from you.”

The answer, it appears, is that it had been happening for several years, but many of the problems noted in the post do indeed arise and, as a result, at least one company is moving its outsourcing back home. According to Law.com, “About a decade after it helped pioneer the trend of outsourcing legal work to India, Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner, a patent prosecution boutique, is bringing the work back to U.S. soil.”

One of the primary, although not the initial, reasons for the outsourcing was cost savings, but some of those savings are phantom savings, especially when you factor in the cost of doing the kind of supervision discussed in the original post;

“There’s a very large volume of paralegal work required to support patent prosecution,” Lundberg said. “It was working well for us because we were getting substantially lower pricing.” Schwegman’s Indian outsourcing peaked at about 15 people doing document or paralegal work for the firm.

The arrangement worked well for several years, but the firm “finally figured out that our productivity in the U.S. was substantially higher,” Lundberg said. Meanwhile, costs in India had risen, and automation was more prevalent. “It started to look less and less attractive to be in India,” Lundberg said.

The firm originally saved about 50% in labor costs for the outsourced work, assuming that productivity was equal. But shipping work to India also involves many layers of management, supervision and training expenses, plus work culture differences that can affect cost, Lundberg said.

“A U.S. employee would feel a lot more freedom to take action in gray areas than an Indian employee,” Lundberg said. “They would ask permission for things a U.S. employee would do without blinking an eye.”

The extremely hierarchical nature of work in India is also a factor, he said. If a copier runs out of paper, for example, a paralegal in India would go and find an administrative person to load the paper instead of just doing it, Lundberg said.”You get a lot of that type of thing going on that ends up slowing things down if there’s any question about how things are going to work.”

The ability to take initiative, to exercise judgment, and work  independently, I have argued here and in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional is an essential element of professionalism.  This demonstrates that this kind of professionalism is an essential element of keeping United States paralegal work in the United States.

India aims to create an army of paralegal volunteers

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

As a discussion on the Paralegal Today listserv is currently discussing, the term “paralegal” can take on a variety of meanings. In many parts of the worl paralegals serve a function quite distinct from anything we consider covered by the term. I’ve previously posted on this phenomenon in countries such as Sierra Leone . Here’s an excerpt from recent story from The Telegraph in Calcutta, India:

To the downtrodden and the dispossessed in Andhra Pradesh, paralegal volunteers, sometimes referred to as barefoot lawyers, have proved to be a godsend. Now, four years after the Paralegal Volunteer Scheme was introduced in the state — it was started in Andhra Pradesh in October 2006 — the National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), a body constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of society, is trying to replicate the scheme across all districts and villages in the country.

Nalsa recently announced plans to provide training to around one lakh paralegal volunteers who will help poor peasants exercise their fundamental rights and make them aware of different government schemes and their benefits.

“Our aim is to create an army of paralegal volunteers who would act as agents of legal awareness and provide legal aid to all sections of people. They are expected to act as intermediaries between the common people and the legal services institutions and help remove barriers to accessing justice,” says Nalsa member secretary U. Sarathchandran.

Click here for the rest of the story.

While I do not see paralegals here in exactly this role, I do consider the profession to be a key to solving the access to justice problem in the United States as discussed in this post.

It is interesting that paralegals in India are being used in this capacity and in a more traditional role, while being a potential outsourcing threat to paralegals in the United States.

Paralegals in India

Monday, July 12th, 2010

It appears that the paralegal profession in India is still in the early, early stages as a profession. However, a recent article in The Hinduindicates that it is on the rise. It is notable that the report echos much of what we hear about the profession here in the States:

Paralegal education does not fall under the Bar Council of India but is closely related to the legal profession. It will be on demand as legal practice gets corporatised and legal assistants of lawyers become more professional. Many services that touts perform can be formalised and ethical norms laid down.

A fairly new concept, there is enormous potential for employment and self-employment. Many services that trained paralegals can provide would also lower costs to litigants. Paralegals can also be of great help and use in Gram Nyayalayas and in spreading legal literacy. At present the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) offers Bachelors programme in paralegal studies, and there are a few online certificate programmes as well.

Paralegal Outsourcing – Is India too far?

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Business Standard.com (India) has a post that attempts to deal with the concept of privilege in the context of attorney/paralegal – client confidentiality in context of the law in England, the United States, and India. What particularly drew my attention, however, was this:

This has assumed criticality for India in the context of outsourcing of legal or paralegal work. Jurisdictions such as the UK which have the same language and common law tradition, as India, have extended this in their Law Society rules to include outsourcing.

However in the aftermath of Sarbanes Oxley, the US Department of Justice and SEC have frequently required waiver of immunity, imposed duties of reporting to Government agencies of matters such as currency transactions.

While it was not, I think, the intent of the passage to raise the issue, it did make me wonder about the possibility that some paralegal work in the United States, might be outsourced not to local “Virtual paralegals,” but to India or similar jurisdictions! If an attorney in Boston can “supervise” a virtual paralegal located in San Francisco, could she not also do so with one located in India? Since licensing is not required in the United States, is the door open to this sort of outsourcing? Perhaps, it is happening already. If any of you know, I’d like to hear from you.