There is an interesting discussion going on over at the LinkedIn Intellectual Property Message Board concerning legal process outsourcing (LPO).
There are some who argue that legal process outsourcing - essentially using virtual worker - could save up to fifty percent of costs. There’s also an indication that law firms such as Clifford Chance, Smith Dornan, Dean, LLP have already set up captive outsourcing operations in India and that other large law firms will be following the trend.
One commenter indicates that outsourcing creates the potential for a loss and control over the project, difficulty in enforcing outsourcing agreements in countries where legal recourse is unreliable, confidentiality concerns and taking away legal services from American attorneys.
I always find the commentary concerning the use of virtual workers to be somewhat strained. First off, it has always been unclear to me why anyone would send outsource services to India when there are thousands of virtual law clerks and paralegals right here in the United States at virtually the same rates (or less) as being charged offshore. I would much rather have a Harvard law student performing law clerk tasks, than someone in India. Chances are the United States-based law student will work harder for less.
One comment is worth exploring a little further. There is a risk of losing control over the tasks being performed unless there are active management systems in place. We use an extranet system in order to manage projects. Every project is defined as a small task in the extranet. The background information is provided into the extranet. Most of the content is dictated into the extranet, making it extremely easy for any attorney to impart their thoughts on a virtual worker. If a task isn’t being done properly, the cause most of the time will be inappropriate management by the attorney involved. An extranet can help you break up the project into small enough pieces that they become essentially “idiot proof” and manage the tasks effectively towards defined deliverables.