News reports in general interest publications such as the New York Times are often a good barometer for industry trends. Now that the the Times has reported on sending legal work to India, it’s official – the legal profession has the “signal” that offshoring is for real. 

In Corporate America Sending More Legal Work to Bombay (March 14, 2004), the New York Times reports that large companies now send legal work to India. It mentions GE’s use of lawyers in India (about which I have previously blogged) . This article reports that BorgWarner has also turned lawyers in India, using Mindcrest to research an employment law question. The reason cited is to save money. The article is a good summary of trends as reported in legal publications and this blog.

What stood out as new and very interesting is that the article addresses the ethics issues head on:

“When any American legal work is done overseas, American lawyers must review – and bear responsibility for – the final product.

‘There is no problem with offshoring,’ said Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law and a legal ethics expert, ‘because even though the lawyer in India is not authorized by an American state to practice law, the review by American lawyers sanitizes the process.’ “

Gillers (who taught the professional responsibility class I took at NYU law) is a good authority. In my view, his comment helps address the stated but unsupported concerns voiced in some articles by partners at large law firms.

The full-text of NYTimes articles is typically available for a couple of weeks, with free registration.