It's interesting that USA Today reported on a growing trend that is rather unpopulist (for such a populist news source)--the outsourcing of legal work, in this instance, to India. The article published October 16, 2009, More legal legwork gets outsourced to India, states that the professional outsourcing industry grew to a $3.05 billion industry in 2007 from a $260 million industry in 2001. It's expected to jump to $11.2 billion in 2011 -- 3.7 times greater in four short years.
Not surprising, the comments range from broad anti-outsourcing of anything comments to suggesting that Wall Street be outsourced so the bailout would cost us all less.
Outsourcing as a transformational strategy and a cost saving tactic has been successful in corporate America for nearly four decades. For years, huge companies have outsourced their IT functions and other back office services to major companies - such as IBM, EDS, Accenture and several others - whose sole business was the function or service being outsourced. Companies also outsource business processes, HR and personnel management, marketing departments, and more. The reason? Reduce head count and cost, improve service and focus on core business.
Law firm clients are pushing for a lower delivery cost of legal services, and have been for years. Law firms are finally responding by finding ways to peel off functional areas that can be outsourced. Legal research is one area that the USA Today article mentions. Unfortunately, too many law firms are too slow to react, so companies are outsourcing more services that go to the heart of their important practices (and profitability)--not just document production or research, but actual legal services.
SuperLaw is an offshore firm consisting of Americans residing in Israel. The counselors have attended U.S. law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU and other prestigious schools and hold current licenses of at least one U.S. state bar. They'll do research and writing ($60/hour), yes, but also contract documentation and review (at about $75/hour) and higher end tax, corporate and IP ($100-150/hour). At the highest end of SuperLaw pricing, it still is considerably less than large law firms charge for first year associates. And SuperLaw lawyers have a minimum of ten years' experience, many formerly employed by large U.S. law firms, government, agencies, and others.
It's time for law firms to do scenario planning around outsourcing various functions and services to determine which service model works best, serves the firms' clients most effectively and ensures that firm profits stay as high as possible. It's time for firms to act, not simply react.