Business Today

Wanted: Legal Eagles

The Legal Process Outsourcing industry offers a new career opportunity, with substantial pay packets.

Print Edition: May 17, 2009

As American Law Firms begin worrying about cutting costs in a tough economic environment, dozens of them are turning to cheaper Indian Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) companies to undertake much of their back-end work.

An assortment of legal work, ranging from documentation to research, transaction support and case analysis, is now being done from India. As bankruptcies pile up among hobbled US companies, large American law firms are leaning even more on Indian LPOs to support their business. 

Law of Returns

  • Who's Hiring: Pangea3, Lawwave, Atlas Legal Research, Quisilex and Mindcrest

  • At what levels: Fresh graduates. both non-law and law, experienced lawyers to operate their centres

  • At what salaries: Rs 1-5 lakh per year for a junior employee, depending on qualifications; Rs 10-20 lakh for a mid-career employee and Rs 25-lakh plus for seniors

  • What are the numbers like: Forrester Research had predicted about 35,000 lawyer jobs shifting from the US by 2010

According to an estimate from Forrester, a technology researcher, 35,000 lawyer jobs would shift offshore by 2010 and about 79,000 by 2015. “It is conceivable that anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 of Forrester’s 35,000 projection has been achieved,” says Sanjay Kamlani, Co-CEO of Pangea3, a Mumbai-based LPO.

While India reportedly graduates as many as 15,000 lawyers annually, only a small fraction of them end up at LPOs, since some jobs require certification in the US and there is also some uncertainty over working in a call centre-like environment. These hurdles haven’t stopped companies from growing their businesses rapidly and hiring to keep pace. “The LPO business and Pangea3’s in particular is expected to show anywhere from 50-100 per cent growth. The reality of the severe recession has set in and multinationals are focussed on achieving big wins by smartly using constrained budgets,” says Kamlani.

This situation is resulting in a surge in outsourcing of professional services related functions, particularly those relating to non-discretionary legal activity. It is estimated that even employing a well-paid lawyer costs as little as 20-25 per cent of an American counterpart and with a strong supply chain, large companies can choose from the best talent available. According to industry estimates, a fresh or junior associate at these LPOs could earn anywhere from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh a year, depending on the complexity of work they undertake, while mid-career executives could be paid Rs 25 lakh annually.

“Most large US law firms already have captive offices here or have outsourced it to third-party LPOs and these outfits offer much better pay and working conditions, especially for young lawyers,” says Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO and MD of The Headhunters India, an HR consultancy. With the global slowdown expected to linger for some more time, this could be one industry in for some good times.

— Rahul Sachitanand

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