I just started reading "The World Is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. My new litigation manager, Tom, recommended the book to me. I am only on page seventy-three, but I have already been struck by a couple of thoughts.
Mr. Friedman has developed the basic premise that the world is flattening out where the individual person and their talents has become available on a global scale to any company, other person, or government that can use those talents. Work is being outsourced to places like India, where the prevailing wage is less than one-fifth of what it is in the United States. Where presumably equally competent or, more competent people, do the work. The same phenomena is occurring within the United States, wherein a worker doesn't have to be located inside the corporate walls in order to provide value to a particular company, project, or task. Housewives in Salt Lake City, UT, are doing reservation scheduling for airlines from the comfort of their homes.
My most pervasive thought thus far is that Friedman's observation of individual empowerment is exactly the same premise as our virtual paralegal, law clerk, and case manager program is built upon. Just like doctors don't need to be located in the United States in order to read an x-ray or CAT scan, law clerks, paralegals and other litigation support people do not need to be located within the walls of a law firm in order to provide value on a particular task. Our virtual workers work from the comfort of their homes, where they bring their particular specialization and knowledge to bare on a particular legal problem. I can pay them a competitive rate of twenty dollars per hour, and bill them out to the client at forty or sixty dollars per hour, still way below market levels for in-house workers. On certain projects, I can bill the virtual workers out at cost, say twenty dollars per hour, in order to develop a relationships with a particular client. For ten hours of great law clerk or paralegal work product, I charge the client two hundred dollars. That is a single hour of attorney time. You can see from this simple example what kind of value can be provided by this approach.