Howrey, the US and global law firm known as much for its trial and litigation support services as for its legal practice, has opened an office in Pune, India, to handle its document management and similar functions. This, as the LAW.COM article about it suggests, combines the benefits of a well-educated but relatively low-paid work-force with the quality control which comes from running the show yourself.
Taking in such outsourced work has contributed much to India’s economy recently, and it is attractive in theory to consider delegating the labour-intensive work involved in litigation coding. Many US law firms are doing just that, but UK firms have been slower to go down this route. One reason is exactly the concerns over quality control which Howrey aims to beat with its own facility; another is the EU data protection and privacy rules. There is certainly some work going from the UK – and some predict an increase in the next year – but not as much as India would like.
The result is that those of us who work in this area are besieged weekly by similar-looking Indian businesses hoping for “mutually beneficial” arrangements. I find it hard to discriminate between them and lack the incentive to undertake a proper analysis of who the good players are. Nor, frankly, is it ever clear where the advertised mutuality lies – which is probably just as well.
I was invited to the outsourcing track at LegalTech where I might have found out more, but it conflicted with something else and I could not go. In the interests of my wide remit to report, I do my best to establish from the phone calls and e-mails what distinguishes one player from another and what UK work they are already doing. I politely cut off their recital of their identical-sounding services to save my time and their phone bills, and ask them to identify why they are different from or better than the others.
One, yesterday, sounded promising: his USP was a 1,000 document sample and the list of UK clients which he rattled off was comprehensive and impressive at least on the surface:
Me: You mention Clifford Chance. Do you actually have work on for Clifford Chance?
Him: No, we do not have work on for Clifford Chance.
Me: Have you ever done work for Clifford Chance?
Him: No, we have never done work for Clifford Chance.
Me: Why did you mention them then?
We left it that he could get back to me when he could produce some references from satisfied UK law firms – satisfied, that is, with the security and privacy aspects as well as with the quality and price, of his offering.
There are undoubtedly some very good Indian businesses offering outsourcing services at least as good as their US and UK counterparts and at a much lower cost. We will hear more about them and (he says with slightly sinking heart) from them. It is not, as I try to explain, my primary area of interest – there is enough to cover on things closer to home – but I will keep an objective eye on the subject.