When you think of outsourcing you probably think of Blue collar jobs requiring little to no skill or technical support and customer service representatives who are as obsequious as they are incompetent spitting out canned dialogue with a heavy accent. “I understand that you are upset because the defective battery we shipped with your laptop burned down your house Mr. Smith…”
Legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies are offering the services of lawyers abroad to handle the labor intensive parts of U.S. legal matters like document review in large scale litigation. As with other industries, India is the favored destination because, in addition to low wages, English is widely spoken.
Ethics Opinion 08-451, dated Aug. 5 but announced by the ABA Tuesday, states that sending legal work overseas is ethically permissible as long as the lawyer doing the outsourcing takes steps to ensure the protection of client confidences and preservation of attorney-client privilege.
The first casualties have been, and will continue to be, contract lawyers brought in to help with document intensive litigation, but, as Elie Mystal states in Above the Law:
how long before the work of junior associates can be cost effectively shipped overseas? It’s not like firms want to go to $190K for incoming associates.
People already in the pipeline should be fine. But change is coming to our profession. This ABA decision isn’t the tip of an iceberg, it is the receding sea that anticipates a tsunami.
Many contract lawyers have long held that the ABA represents the interests of wealthy partners at large law firms to the detriment of everyone else. This recent opinion only serves to reinforce that view.