If you view offshoring legal work as limited to low-value, repetitive work, think again. I recently spoke with the co-founders of legal Indian offshore service Pangea3, which has already moved beyond the routine.  

Co-founders David Perla and Sanjay Kamlani say they help companies with patents, legal research, litigation support, and contracts. Contract work includes high-volume, routine items such as NDAs. It goes much further, however, to include negotiating and drafting one-off agreements. Workers in India sometimes even conduct live negotiations.

In effect, Pangea3 serves as the “contracts department” for some customers, including handling agreements for non-US jurisdictions. Perla says that “more than 50% of our revenue is high value work rather than routine, high volume work; this came as surprise to us but we handle it well.”

I asked if this makes them a US law firm with operations in India. They say no because they do not make legal decisions and because the company delivers its services only to in-house lawyers, who review the work prior to delivery to clients.

Pangea3 employs US and Indian lawyers with industry expertise. The company now has five Indian lawyers for each one in the US but expects to ratio to move to 10 to 1 by year-end, assuming it meets it targets of over 100 lawyers.

Perla and Kamlani are not sure that they have displaced any US lawyers – yet. But with associate starting salaries over six figures, they see a market ready for some dislocation. Kamlani says that the “market complains about costs – now that we are doing something about it, law departments are buying.”

I asked about the role of technology in the business. The company is initially focusing on tools to interact with customers, for example, VPNs, e-mail, and secure extranet. So far, they have not deployed document assembly software.

Reflecting on this conversation and the role of technology, I think it is likely that time saving technology such as document assembly will play an important role if offshoring grows. Sending legal work overseas is already a big change; adopting new ways of doing the work does not seem radical in comparison. Moreover, if cost reduction motivates the move offshore, then competition among offshore players to reduce costs further will likely drive the adoption of more sophisticated technology.