We all know by now that outsourcing of legal work, including legal research, has become a legitimate part of the current practice environment. Now outsourcing seems to have taken the next step toward becoming even more important and useful. According to this NY Times story - Outsourcing to India Draws Western Lawyers - attorneys more familiar with the landscape of American legal practice are moving to India to direct the outsourcing efforts.
The story highlights the efforts of Christopher Wheeler, a former assistant attorney general for New York. Wheeler moved to India to manage a team of 100+ Indian lawyers that is providing services that are traditionally performed by incoming associates. According to the story:
The number of legal outsourcing companies in India has mushroomed to more than 140 at the end of 2009, from 40 in 2005, according to Valuenotes, a consulting firm in Pune, India. Revenue at India’s legal outsourcing firms is expected to grow to $440 million this year, up 38 percent from 2008, and should surpass $1 billion by 2014, Valuenotes estimates.
“This is not a blip, this is a big historical movement,” said David B. Wilkins, director of Harvard Law School’s program on the legal profession. “There is an increasing pressure by clients to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” he added, and with companies already familiar with outsourcing tasks like information technology work to India, legal services is a natural next step.
At this point it appears that only "Big Law" firms and in-house counsel divisions of major corporations are affected but if the trend continues outsourcing may become even more prevalent as smaller firms become more comfortable with the notion and discover the economic benefits.