Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Outsourcing to India

This month's ABA Journal has an article on the trend of outsourcing legal work to India. The process is basically that an attorney here in the US takes in a case, then sends all the work of drafting pleadings, contracts, discovery or the like to the outsourcing firm in India where it is handled by an attorney who is admitted (or whatever they do there) in India.

The article was silent about the ethics of this type of arrangement. I can see many issues - are you obligated to tell the client about the arrangement (if not, why not) - can you mark up the fees you pay to the Indian attorney? - are you being deceitful if you file the work as your own (see the previous posts on the topic of 'ghost lawyering?'

Personally, I don't care much for this type of arrangement. I think that if a client hires me to do a job, then they should get me and the staff that is under my immediate control, not someone halfway around the world who may, or may not, be familiar with the laws and rules under which we operate here. While I am sure that the law schools in India do a great job of educating their graduates on general principles of law, there is no substitute for the experience of practicing in a jurisdiction. I think the quality of work would suffer. I think that clients would choose another lawyer if informed of the arrangement and I think there is a duty to inform them.

I am going to post an opinion poll. Chime in and let me know your thoughts on the ethics of outsourcing.



Jim said...

I couldn't agree more with your opinion. Too much has already left the United States, toys made in China, for instance, is the latest. Our Federal government is blind to this subject in the name of free trade

Tim Hatton said...

I first ran into the outsourcing issue in the computer programming business. Now, back in the law business, here it is again. But this time, I think there are serious ethical considerations. Are the Indian attorneys practicing law in a jurisdiction in which they are not licensed? Do the outsourcing law firms assist them in that unauthorized practice. And I maintain that there is an absolute duty to inform the client as to who is doing the work and what the true cost is.