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Independent US Contract Lawyer Takes On Foreign LPO

I’ve taken a fair amount of heat for pointing out that ABA Formal Op. 08-451, which states (with some important caveats) that foreign legal outsourcing is ethical, is actually good news for independent US-based contract lawyers because the same principles that allow firms to send legal work overseas also allow law students and graduates awaiting admission to do actual legal work when they’re working at firms, and allow lawyers to work as contract attorneys in jurisdictions in which they are not admitted. However, I’ve never taken a position on whether foreign legal process outsourcing is a good idea for hiring lawyers—solos and small firms who need the assistance of a qualified contract lawyer. Until now.

Yesterday, I saw a post in a LinkedIn group to which I belong, called Legal Research & Writing. Here’s the post, by Jagriti Mishra, the head of business development at an Indian LPO company called Draft N Craft:

Bursting the 7 Myths behind Legal Process Outsourcing.

This article attempts to address 7 common myths associated with the LPO industry

1> Whether outsourcing is synonym to compromise in quality?
2> Outsourcing is a compromise with confidentiality
3> It is unethical to outsource
4> By outsourcing, the vendor takes away outsourcer country’s jobs.
5> Indian LPO vendors compete with foreign law firms.
6> LPO vendors need malpractice insurance
7> Legal outsourcing starts instant savings and has no obligations

Please refer the link below:-

http://lpowatch.blogspot.com/

Curious, I clicked through to the post, where I was immediately struck by Mishra’s discussion of the first “myth” behind legal process outsourcing:

Myth 1> LPO stands for PLPO (Para-Legal Process Outsourcing) and/or there is a compromise in quality.

The legal process outsourcing industry is at nascent state but is growing both monetarily and intellectually. Although it is true that High cost, more routine, lower risk legal works are easy to outsource, it in no way circumscribes the potentials of legal process outsourcing. The PLPO perception is a backlog, as the Legal outsourcing industry begun with routine work. Suffice it is to mention that various important player like (SDD and Lexadigm) have prepared Briefs and Motions to be filed in US courts. Our attorneys are trained for Multi jurisdictional research and assist:-

  • US debt collection attorneys prepare Consumer Complaints, Briefs, and Motions for FDCPA, FCRA, FCBA and TILA violations.
  • Social security attorneys in filing FIT, research on GRIDS, De novo appeal before ALJ.
  • Bankruptcy attorney in intake form fill up and entering the information on Bankruptcy software.
  • Foreclosure attorney in preparing complaints, motion and briefs to help the homeless.
  • Contract review and management attorneys in contract Review including red lining and blue lining.
  • Merger and Acquisition attorney for due diligence.
  • For e-discovery solutions with cost advantage.

Quality is a term that takes new face with new situations. Clear guidelines, good teamwork and 100% quality check are the factors that coordinate in determining standards. It requires involvements from both the ends, keep a track of milestones and guidelines and the Outsourced service provider will ensure quality. We however, from our end add extra input to provide best quality deliverables. Had all vendors failed in providing quality this industry would have collapsed by now, the continuous growth reflects value.

Ironic, no?

Before other LPO companies get up in arms, I’ll concede that no doubt many of them have much better quality control than Draft N Craft (which I’d never heard of before reading Mr. Mishra’s post) appears to have. Nevertheless, the trainwreck of grammar and usage errors in Mr. Mishra’s post is a red flag. If the reading comprehension abilities of the foreign lawyers who work for a company like Draft N Craft is on par with the writing ability demonstrated in this post, any U.S. lawyer who hires a company like this will have to do quite a bit of due diligence to ensure that the work product meets the standards set forth by the disciplinary authorities (to say nothing of the courts).

Since I have never personally worked with a foreign LPO firm, I can’t comment on Mishra’s claims concerning security and confidentiality issues. And since I’m not an economist (heck, I didn’t even take Econ 101 in college), I won’t comment on Mishra’s analysis of the question of whether foreign outsourcing results in a net loss of jobs in the outsourcing country.

I agree with only two of Mishra’s arguments. An ethical foreign LPO company, like any ethical U.S.-based contract lawyer, will not compete with you for your clients. The foreign LPO company (or a US-based contract lawyer who is not admitted in your jurisdiction) simply can’t represent your clients directly. And even a U.S.-based contract lawyer who is providing services in a jurisdiction in which he or she is admitted to practice law won’t compete with you for your clients: simply put, we don’t want your clients—we want to work only for other lawyers.

I agree only to a point with Mishra’s analysis of the ethics decisions. Not a single bar association has determined that foreign legal outsourcing is per se unethical. However, Mishra gives short shrift to the caveats included in many of the opinions. You can find a more detailed discussion of the caveats in ABA Formal Op. 08-451 here.

The last thing that a busy solo or small firm lawyer wants to deal with when outsourcing substantive legal work is having to practically rewrite a brief to get it signature-ready. Sure, it costs more to outsource to a qualified, U.S.-based independent contract lawyer than to send work overseas. But remember: you get what you pay for.

Comments (13)

  1. Reply Carolyn Elefant

    Why does everyone assume that solo and small firm lawyers will use offshore services. When these services first gained traction back in the mid-1990s, I priced them against the services of other contract lawyers and found that the costs were not particularly solo or small firm friendly. As more players have entered the field and competition has grown, the cost of offshoring may have come down, but if the work is not done competently, the money spent is worthless. Solo and small firms have far less margin for error in outsourcing work and if it’s not done correctly, we will be harmed.

  2. Reply Jordan Furlong

    Since Mr. Magriti’s English is considerably better than my Hindi, I’ll resist any inclination to comment on it negatively. But Lisa’s point is well taken that when English is the language of your clients (as well as of the courts your clients deal with), you need to be extremely good at it, and failing to do so is not a good omen of success.

    That said, I’d be leery of taking this excerpt as a representative sample of what India-based LPO has to offer — just as many US lawyers wouldn’t want loud, ambulance-chasing, late-night lawyer TV commercials to be taken as representative of the American bar. Indeed, in my correspondence with LPO providers in India and in seeing some of their written work, the above excerpt is very much an outlier. Well-crafted and professional work is more typical — and if there’s a more than occasional grammar mistake, well, I’ve seen that on North American legal websites, too.

    There’s nothing really novel about LPO providers in India, the Philippines or wherever — at the end of the day, they’re just legal service providers like you get in Indiana, Philadelphia, or other places we’re more familiar with. When you look past the location, you come down to the same questions you ask of any such provider: are you competent? Are you trustworthy? Are you a source of stress or a source of comfort for me? As times goes on, we’ll come to focus far more on these questions than on the provider’s hemisphere and time zone.

    Should solos use LPOs? I don’t see why not. But at this point, I’d be inclined to wait it out and let the big firms separate the wheat from the chaff — they have the money and, as Carolyn suggests, the margin for error that solo don’t necessarily have. Let BigLaw be the first mover and incur the costs accordingly — solos and small-firm lawyers can be the fast finishers, swooping in to the tried-and-tested marketplace and choosing the best of what BigLaw has assessed.

  3. Reply Lisa Solomon

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jordan.

    It’s true that you can find mediocre (or worse) providers in the US as well as abroad, and that “you get what you pay for” applies regardless of state or national boundaries. Still, when you combine what looks to be (in this case, at least) a provider with questionable quality control with the issues that may arise in connection with foreign (but not onshore) outsourcing (as identified in Formal Op 08-451) and – the kicker here, in my view – no malpractice or errors and omissions insurance, you’re asking for trouble. I don’t think that kind of vendor will provide the peace of mind that solo and small firm lawyers need when outsourcing substantive legal work.

  4. Reply Jagriti Mishra

    Thanks Lisa for your comments and I appreciate your post above, as it gives me the opportunity to elicit the points which otherwise were beyond the scope of my article. I would try to do complete justice to the pertinent questions raised by you:-

    “Before other LPO companies get up in arms, I’ll concede that no doubt many of them have much better quality control than Draft N Craft (which I’d never heard of before reading Mr. Mishra’s post) appears to have. Nevertheless, the trainwreck of grammar and usage errors in Mr. Mishra’s post is a red flag. If the reading comprehension abilities of the foreign lawyers who work for a company like Draft N Craft is on par with the writing ability demonstrated in this post, any US lawyer who hires a company like this will have to do quite a bit of due diligence to ensure that the work product meets the standards set forth by the disciplinary authorities (to say nothing of the courts).”

    My reply :- You will appreciate that neither the article nor the Blog post are indicative of deliverables or ready to file documents. A better way to comment on qualitative and beneficial aspects would be to have a deliverable of a LPO company in hand and then to point out the flaws and area of improvements in it. My role in Business Development is more into developing strategy in a competitive market, and the Blog in question is an effort towards compiling some common concerns of the Legal Outsourcing Industry and is in no way indicative of work product meeting US/UK standards.

    “The last thing that a busy solo or small firm lawyer wants to deal with when outsourcing substantive legal work is having to practically rewrite a brief to get it signature-ready. Sure, it costs more to outsource to a qualified, US-based independent contract lawyer than to send work overseas. But remember: you get what you pay for.”

    My reply:- I believe that outsourcing is altogether more beneficial for busy solo or small firms. While developing strategy for my company I realized that solo practitioners and small firms (one below 15 attorneys) amounts for more than 85% of total legal work, but at the same time are hardly outsourced. This is an area which Draft N Craft is targeting. The idea is to get all the back office work from these small firms outsourced, allowing our clients with more time, resources and cost advantages. These solo and small firms practicing in the area of Debt Collection, SSD, Bankruptcy and foreclosure are a great resource for us. I reiterate at the cost of brevity that a deliverable document in hand would be better indicative of work product.

    Thanks for your valued interest in the article.

  5. […] more routine, lower risk legal works are easy to outsource, it in no way circumscribes the …Read more about this Related Legal infos …Nearshore Journal » Career Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) – Major […]

  6. Reply Lisa Solomon

    Thanks for your comment, Jagriti.

    While I agree that, on one hand, evaluating a delivered project would, of course, be the best way to evaluate a company’s work product, many US-based independent contract lawyers post samples of their work on their websites. I note that your company does not have samples on its site (since I’m not familiar with the websites of all – or even a sizable number – of Indian LPO companies, I can’t comment on how many of them post writing samples). Confidentiality does not prohibit posting writing samples as court documents are public (i.e., not confidential) unless the court seals them. As for other types of documents (such as analytical memos intended for the lawyer’s own consumption), you can simply ask a client’s permission to post the document (and offer to change identifying details).

    Like Jordan Furlong, I admire anyone who can do business in a second (or third, etc.) language. Still, as the person in charge of business development for Draft N Craft, surely you understand that you are the “face” of the company, and that potential clients are judging your company by what you write on its behalf.

    Finally, you did not respond to the equally serious concern about your position that companies providing substantive legal work (such as research and writing) do not need to have malpractice insurance.

  7. Reply Richard Johnson

    I agree with your original assertion that this is poorly worded and indicative of the type of work product you will get from these LPO chop shops.

    Everything from the phony acronyms to the bragging about the lack of insurance indicates near fraud level of competency.

    Anyone entrusting their work to one of these places will indeed get what they pay for. Document review and research are important aspects of discovery and should be handled by properly trained and licensed attorneys or American paralegals under their direct supervision.

    Any US licensed attorney supervising work performed in India or other offshore location will be on the hook for all of the transgressions that occur. Is that something an intelligent, competent attorney would take on? It’s highly questionable.

    Besides the fact that by using an LPO it gives the appearane that perhaps the clients are trying to play fast and loose in a wild west type of environment. They are vulnerable to fraud and incompetence on many levels.

    The only real justification for using one of the places is greed. There are tens of thousands of out of work attorneys, many of whom rely on e-discovery and document review to pay their bills .

    Just because one can use the Internet to exploit a cheaper labor source, doesn’t mean one should. There will be many lawsuits (criminal and civil) when it is made public what an absolute sham the LPO business it.

    They can invent all of the phony acronyms they like, it’s clear in this man’s original statement that this is not someone that even speaks fluent English. Not to mention, no JD degree or bar membership or even an LLM. It’s just common sense.

    Let the foolhardy send their US legal work to India, it will be more expensive in the end.

  8. Reply Jagriti Mishra

    Lisa,

    With so much damage caused, without having any deliverable sample in hand, the space for interchanging documents is narrowed. I would have appreciated your attempt for a sample deliverable before writing this blog. I regret that this sensitive issue has become victim of rush. There is plethora of deliverables on the net, with a little pain these could have helped in your due diligence. My blog said that quality is ensured by “extra care” from the vendor’s end (which reflects two levels of internal QC) and that the work product is finally supervised by US attorney. Nevertheless, without understanding the process flow of an Indian LPO, you took the Blog post as a replica of a work product for an otherwise $85 million industry.

    I also regret the comment posted above by my brother Richard which states inter-alia that US attorney’s outsourcing work to India are “foolhardy”. “foolhardy” is derived from old French “fol hardi” which means a fool acting bold. I however do not stretch it further or dedicate a Blog post illustrating typos of the comment, for I believe that this does not resemble the mindset or tune of majority of US attorney I am in touch.

  9. Reply Lisa Solomon

    Jagriti-

    Why the resistance to posting writing samples on a company’s website, available for all to see (and to evaluate)? As a marketing professional, surely you know that the easier it is for a potential client to find the information they’re interested in, the better.

    Furthermore, in my post, I conceded that “no doubt many [Indian LPO companies] have much better quality control than Draft N Craft. Thus, your contention that I “took the Blog post as a replica of a work product for an otherwise $85 million industry” is inaccurate.

    Finally, it’s telling that although you took the time to comment twice, you still have not addressed the concern I raised about your position that foreign LPO companies don’t have to carry malpractice insurance.

  10. […] and Insurance Last Friday, in her blog Legal Research and Writing Pro, Lisa Solomon posted Independent US Contract Lawyer Takes On Foreign LPO wherein she critiqued the post Bursting the 7 Myths behind Legal Process Outsourcing by Jagriti […]

  11. […] fall, I wrote about the risks that lawyers take when they outsource work to foreign legal process outsourcing companies. The primary risk I focused on wasn’t the possibility that the foreign provider might violate […]

  12. […] “ . . . . some legal work is being done abroad with no quality oversight.” While I have warned (here, here and here) that hiring attorneys need to be particularly attentive to the danger of receiving […]

  13. […] you may think you’ve landed on the wrong blog. While it’s true that I can be highly critical, I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. With the introduction of the Related […]

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