To say that legal outsourcing is inextricably linked to international business would be an understatement.
Many opponents of any kind of offshoring – from manufacturing to large-scale document review – seek to highlight the number of jobs “lost” to outsourcing. What is also overlooked is the number of jobs created by outsourcing and other forms of international trade. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune, A Rebalancing Act, states, “With American consumers cutting back in response to the recession, many U.S. companies increasingly are looking outward, toward fast-developing countries like China, India and Brazil. But instead of seeing those countries primarily as cheap producers of goods, both American manufacturing ﬁrms and giant multinational corporations see them as potential customers for U.S. products and services.”
I’m always amazed by the number of domestic US and UK products I see used at legal outsourcing vendors during my on-site assessments. Offshore lawyers work on Dell computers and run Microsoft windows while sitting on IKEA office furniture. And during lunch at their offices, I am routinely offered refreshments of Coca-Colas and Pizza Hut pizza.
By definition, trade is beneficial to both parties involved and legal outsourcing is no exception. As noted by the article, perhaps the next biggest market for domestic law firms are markets located in offshore locations such as India, Philippines and South Africa. Opening up the Indian legal system to outside law firms has been on the table for the past several years. Lord Bach has one of the more informative dialogues on this topic.
One thing that we have seen time and time again in our increasingly global world is to never say never.