I spotted on bespacific a reference to a very interesting article in the Star Tribune (Jan. 16, 2004) reporting that West is running a small test of using lawyers in India for some of its publishing operations. 

According to the Star Tribune, “a few months into the quiet Indian pilot-office experience, the half-dozen or so Indian lawyers have been doing online interpretation and legal-classification of “unpublished decisions” of U.S. state and lower courts that are not considered big deals — or “precedential” in legal parlance.” It goes on to say the work has been good and has highly-compensated West editors concerned about their jobs.

As I have argued in prior blog postings, I do not see any fundamental barrier to outsourcing legal work to countries where people speak English and are trained in British common law. It’s not obvious to me that quality concerns are a unique issue in outsourcing. All legal work is subject to judgment and to errors and requires quality checking (recall that, at least at one time, some large firms had a “2 partner rule” for any documents leaving the firm). Whether lawyer-editors in India can do as good a job as lawyer-editors in Eagan (home of West) is, ultimately, an empirical question. And I suspect that West, with its century-plus experience in publishing, has the know-how to make the empirical call. Of course, beyond cost and quality, West, like any large employer, will also have to consider intangible factors in making the decision to go offshore.