The Chicago Tribune reports today in Law firms slow to outsource (registration required) that law firms have been slow to outsource work. The article describes how Mindcrest, Inc., a legal outsourcing company, does most of its work for corporations, not for firms. 

According the article, most of the work Mindcrest does is “complex but repetitive legal administrative work [such as] processes qualified domestic relations orders.” Mindcrest was founded by a former large law firm partner. Its web site lists the types of projects on which it has worked.

Though the article’s take-away is that law firms have been slow to outsource, I have a different gloss. First, it is interesting that there is already at least one company, founded by big firm lawyers, already in the business of legal outsourcing. And second, the fact that a newspaper deems it noteworthy to even report that law firms are slow to outsource suggests that the pressures in this area mounting.

The article suggests, in quoting a large law firm partner, that confidentiality is an issue in outsourcing. I do not know all the ethics rules and perhaps there are special issues for work done off-shore. I see only one big difference between a firm outsourcing copying, litigation support, and even document review to contract lawyers in the USA and outsourcing legal work to India. That difference is the legal process available to deal with a breach of confidentiality. In the USA, injunctions might be available to stem a leak and civil or criminal actions available against the leaker. The same may not be true in India, but, in a similar vein as I suggested in my posting yesterday, this is as much an empirical as theoretical question. [I would welcome comments or e-mail from a lawyer who has researched the confidentiality issues.]

Separately, those interested in outsourcing might also want to read the Wall Street Journal today, which reports on internal IBM documents concerning outsourcing. The article reports that IBM expects to save over $150 million by outsourcing. It goes on to report that the documents also advise managers how to explain and position these decisions to employees.