Legal publication The Recorder reports in Outsourcing Reaches Corporate Counsel (8/25/04) that more inhouse counsel are finding ways to use offshore labor. Separately, a recent Business Week article discusses some extraordinary security measures Indian outsourcers are taking that might allay some concerns about confidentiality and privilege. 

Here are several interesting points from the Recorder article:

  • “Forrester Research Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm, predicts that more than 489,000 U.S. lawyer jobs, nearly 8 percent of the field, will shift abroad by 2015. “
  • GE now has 8 lawyers and 9 paralegals in India. They work on contracts, under the supervision of US lawyers. Since moving work offshore in 2001, GE has saved $2 million.
  • Some small companies also send work offshore (e.g., to patent lawyers in New Zealand).
  • Chicago-based legal outsourcing firm Mindcrest reports that inquires have tripled over the last year.
  • Much of the article discusses some of the potential barriers – including skeptics among US lawyers – but suggests the trend to offshore labor will continue.
  • One of the potential barriers I have discussed in prior posts is confidentiality. In Fortress India?, Business Week (8/16/04) discusses how Indian outsourcing companies are clamping down on security and confidentiality to address U.S. and European fears of identity theft. Measures include ID cards, prohibiting workers from taking any personal items into work spaces, shredding conversation notes, call monitoring or recording, watching workers carefully, masking sensitive data, removing any hardware from PCs that would allow downloading or copying data, and video surveillance.

    All these measures are designed to prevent Indian workers from stealing data that might allow identity theft. (Editorial aside: it seems to me US operations might emulate these measures as well given the problem of identity theft stemming from within the US.) The measures described in the article are far more stringent than the security I have seen at most law firms. While these steps do not necessarily address the legal sanctions that might be required to protect client confidences (e.g., restraining orders or sanctions), in a practical sense, they would likely address confidentiality considerations that might otherwise inhibit using offshore legal services.