Tuesday, May 29, 2007

U.S. Supreme Court brief (already) outsourced to India



This is the future of the legal industry.

Puneet Mohey, president of a legal outsourcing company called Lexadigm on the other side of town, has a more straightforward pitch: "We provide large-law-firm-quality work at literally one-third the price." Lexadigm's rates range from $65 to $95 an hour for work that large U.S. firms might bill at $250 an hour or more. Nearly all the employees at Mohey's company are lawyers.

With outsourcing, those who are not members of an American bar are supervised, and their work vouched for, by someone who is. "To the extent that what you have them do is legal research for U.S. firms, it's not much different than having law students do it," said George Washington University Law School professor Thomas Morgan, a scholar of professional responsibility.

Some of the dozen or so outsourcing companies that have sprung up over the last decade in India focus on low-level paralegal work—keeping track of filing dates and document reviews. But Intellevate and Lexadigm prefer to take on more sophisticated work like patent applications and appellate briefs because the work commands higher rates from clients. Lexadigm recently drafted its first brief for a U.S. Supreme Court case, involving the application to a tax dispute of the Fifth Amendment's due process clause. The brief will ultimately be filed by an American law firm, which can use all, part, or none of Lexadigm's work—the same as if the draft had been written by one of its own associates.
Hopefully the ABA will step in and do something, like declare that this falls under "unauthorized practice of the law." With tuitions skyrocketing and 50% of hungry new graduates unable to get anything but temporary document review jobs, if those jobs are gone, the number of student loan defaults will become a real problem. If this continues, law firms may also pass on hiring associates, and then the shit will really hit the fan.

1 comment:

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