As legal outsourcing starts to climb up the value chain, will it threaten the foundations of in-house legal departments?
In the above-titled "intelligence report" on legal process outsourcing, the Indian Business Law Journal tries to answer the question whether LPOs endanger the future of corporate law firms:
The growth of India's legal process outsourcing (LPO) sector has led many to wonder whether the future of corporate counsel is imperiled. With an increasing number of legal functions being outsourced on a routine basis, what does the future hold in store for in-house practitioners?
Despite the possible threat, most corporate counsels are not unduly concerned. Not yet at least.
"In a corporate set up, the in-house counsel brings certain value to the table which is difficult to get from an LPO," says Dev Bajpai, director (legal) at ICICI Venture Funds, noting that "law firms, in some ways, are already playing the role of an LPO."
However, the report also quotes other prominent people associated with the LPO industry who predict a more radical transformation in the legal industry world-wide, due to offshore legal process outsourcing:
But listening to the ambition of Sanjay Bhatia of SDD Global, one has to wonder if an even greater threat isn't lurking beyond the horizon. "As the users' comfort level with the providers increases, more complex tasks are being offshored," he says. "Finally, only court appearances and offering legal advice will be functions that cannot be offshored."
UK-based entertainment lawyer Alex Hannell . . . chose SDD Global, which "did a great job" and "saved him tens of thousands of dollars."
Hannell, who has worked as in-house counsel at a number of large media firms, believes that Indian LPOs won't replace lawyers like him, but will instead provide them a possible remedy to the ongoing challenge of getting a large volume of work done with limited resources. Still, he does wonder what the long-term future might bring: "It may be that further down the track, it has a knockout effect on the number of people who come up through the ranks as in-house lawyers in the UK or US," he says.