Several of my prior posts discuss the potential to outsource legal work overseas. I was therefore interested to read Legal-Work Outsourcing Cuts Costs; DuPont’s pitch to in-house counsel: Save millions by sending legal work to companies other than law firms from the New Jersey Law Journal, Nov. 17, 2003, as carried on

This article describes how DuPont and other law departments outsource elements of legal work to “someone other than attorneys at law firms.” DuPont has used a temp agency for witness interviews and document reviews; Cisco estimates it has saved millions by outsourcing discovery work; and Sun Microsystems uses lawyers who do not work at traditional law firms for some patent work. Companies report saving significant sums with this strategy.

The article quotes a partner at a large law firm who questions the quality of the outsourcing approach. To me, quality is an empirical question – it’s easy enough to monitor quality and even to compare the quality of law firm work to outsourced work in a controlled test.

The same partner worries about the “caliber of person.. you get willing to do that kind of work for their whole career.” I have read several articles in the business press that report that customer service reps in India do a better job than those in the US because for them, the service job is considered high end. Perhaps the same is true for some types of legal work. I personally worry about the opposite: for example, the attention span and focus of “high end” associates with Ivy League educations and very high expectations spending days or weeks on end reviewing often mind-numbing documents.

I find it encouraging that inhouse counsel are looking at alternatives to the traditional way of doing work. Not every outsourcing or alternative work arrangement will work, but it certainly makes sense to explore alternatives and test their cost and quality against traditional approaches. Many alternatives are facilitated by the appropriate use of technology to transfer work, monitor it, and compare results.

[Note: After posting this item, a somewhat different and more detailed version of this article appeared on based on Model Behavior from The Recorder; this version has an explicit discussion about outsourcing legal work to India and to LRN.]