Legal Research And Back-Office Work To Go Offshore Next - InformationWeek

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Legal Research And Back-Office Work To Go Offshore Next

India-based vendors are setting up business-process outsourcing arms to service the legal industry.

Legal research and other back-office work carried out at law firms may be among the next set of white-collar jobs to move offshore in big numbers. According to a recent study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, legal assistants and paralegals working in India on behalf of U.S. law firms earn, on average, between $6 and $8 per hour. That's about one-third of what their counterparts in the United States are paid.

Some of the largest law firms in the country are looking to take advantage of that discrepancy. John Halvey, who heads the technology finance and outsourcing group at New York-based Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy, says the 137-year-old firm is considering moving some back-office functions to India. In doing so, Halvey said at an offshore-outsourcing conference Monday in New York, the firm would simply be mirroring the behavior of its international business clients. "I can't think of a recent deal we did that didn't have an offshore component," Halvey said.

Vendors are taking notice. Mohamed Sathak, president of Chennai, India-based IT outsourcing company OpenWave Computing LLC, says his firm is setting up a business-process outsourcing arm to serve the legal industry. "It's a big growth opportunity," Sathak says.

Sathak says OpenWave is in pilot discussions to provide paralegal services for two or three major U.S. law firms, which he declined to identify. It would be relatively easy for Indian-based researchers to access U.S. case law, he says, "because most of that now sits in digital databases" as opposed to musty old law libraries. Halvey, however, cautions that some sensitive legal work probably can't be moved overseas because of concerns about maintaining attorney-client confidentiality.

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