Two recent articles about sending work offshore caught my eye.   In New Economy, Companies sending work abroad are learning cultural sensitivity – to their American customers, the New York Times (December 9, 2003) reports that some company’s that have outsourced work to offshore locations have run into problems. Dell ran into problems providing service for some of its high-end products and had to re-route the call center back to the USA. In spite of this setback, the article quotes analysts who predict that technology jobs will continue to move offshore.

In prior posts on the topic of outsourcing, I have argued that law firms should consider moving some work to India or other countries where people are trained in English common law. The problem Dell ran into is not likely to happen to law firms. Dell and other companies providing customer service provide direct customer access to the offshore resources. As I see it, were a law firm or department to use offshore personnel, it would manage the resources directly, review the work, and not allow direct client contact. That does not guarantee that offshoring would work, but this approach would eliminate a risk customer service organizations face.

Adding fuel to discussion is Change of Venue in the American Lawyer Magazine December 2003 issue. This column’s sub-heading says it all: “Cost-conscious general counsel step up their use of offshore lawyers, creating fears of an exodus of U.S. legal jobs.” The article quotes Forrester Research, a market research firm, as predicting that 8% of lawyer jobs will go abroad by 2015. The article then sites examples of companies that are using the services of offshore lawyers. The head of one outsourcing firm “notes that foreign outsourcing could benefit large, multi-office law firms. Much of the work being done by junior associates, he says, could be handled offshore.” He may not be exactly unbiased, but I believe this is true. The article concludes that with skepticism about the idea of associates losing jobs but nonetheless suggest law firms need to consider the offshore possibility.

Note added 12/11/03: The American Lawyer article is now available on the web: Change Of Venue; Cost-conscious general counsel step up their use of offshore lawyers, creating fears of an exodus of U.S. legal jobs