As outsourcing becomes a regular part of the landscape of the legal industry, what does that mean for legal jobs? The most obvious answer would be doom and gloom: outsourcing will rob young lawyers of the more junior, menial tasks, reducing the headcount needs of law firms.
And that might be true to a degree. But perhaps with one loss comes another opportunity. With the legal outsourcing industry having raked in around $400 million last year and predicted to roll in about $2.4 billion by 2012, outsourcing is planting its roots. This trend isn’t surprising given the economic crisis and greater focus on alternative billing models. But to recent grads and out-of-work attorneys—who are already facing a gloomy job outlook—a trend that sends legal work overseas is the last thing they want.
An article in today’s New York Times, however, points out that outsourcing may not just benefit lawyers in faraway lands—it may bring some green to the home front, as well. According to the Times, “Outsourcing firms, the companies that in recent years added to the financial woes of the American legal profession by sending work to low-cost countries like India, are now creating jobs for lawyers in the United States.” The salaries aren’t six figure BigLaw dollars—think more like $50-$80k—but outsourcing firms may offer equity or management opportunities that can be hard to nab at large law firms and client interaction, which is unlikely with contract work.
Why outsource within the U.S.? For starters, companies may not want certain work crossing the border. Outsourcing firm Pangea3 launched an office just outside of Dallas, Texas that “will have lawyers working during United States business hours, on tasks that, because of logistics or American law, can be difficult to perform outside the country — like writing and vetting export control documents, military contracts and some patent reviews," states the NYT. And lower costs and salary expectations outside of the major U.S. cities provide cost-effective settings for legal work.
So does that mean that JDs and lawyers should dive in to these new opportunities? As Professor Cassandra Burke Robertson of Case Western Reserve Law points out, most recent law grads are just happy to be employed. With law grads’ massive loans and few job prospects, I understand that. Plus, there is something to be said for keeping up with new opportunities and innovations as the legal world evolves. As lawyers weigh these factors, I also think they should consider their long-term goals—which I realize may be a luxury that not everyone can afford (literally). Consider what skills you may gain in a career with an outsourcing firm and what that means for your exit options. Perhaps at this point, we don’t even understand the breadth of exit options, or perhaps they will be similar to those available with contract work (which may be just what you’re looking for). But just as you would with any major decision, don’t jump onto a new bandwagon without first researching how it will impact your career.
What are your thoughts on legal outsourcing careers? How do you think they’ll change the legal job landscape?
New York Times source
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