Offshoring “is moving up the food chain” reports Kevin G. Hall of Knight Ridder Newspapers in More complex jobs moving offshore

Tax, public relations, architecture, and high-end research are all examples of functions where companies are seeking help in India and elsewhere offshore according to the article. Robert Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, is quoted: “Any professional service that can be boiled down to predictable steps, even if they are complicated steps, is now exportable to South Asia.”

Law firms – and clients – should take note that cost is not the only reason to send work overseas. The article reports on a survey by the American Institute of Architects. It found that among architecture firms that sent work offshore, “a quarter cited lower costs, another quarter cited faster production and 50 percent… said offshoring helped them cover peak demand, allowing round-the-clock work on projects.”

The article also discusses the legal market, quoting me about the recent AmLaw survey that found 6% of AmLaw 200 firms have sent work offshore and citing Mindcrest for the document drafting and legal research services it provides.

Reich’s predictable but complex steps may well describe large scale discovery document review. Let’s hope that firms deploying 10s or 100s of contract lawyers have routinized the review process through documentation and quality control. If not, they have an inherent problem. If so, can anyone say software and/or India?