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Law Firm Offshores an Office to India

Offshoring document review to India hasn't gained much traction with most law firms, in large part because of concerns about security and quality control.  So as The American Lawyer reports, one Am Law 200 firm, Howrey has decided to try a different approach: opening its own office in India to handle document management in litigation, IP and arbitration matters around the world. 

According to American Lawyer, Howrey is the first major law firm to open an office in India to handle client work such as document review.  As Robert Ruyak, Howrey's CEO explained, an outpost in India supervised by a Howrey partner will offer clients top law firm quality at lower rates:

"It's just like if you had people working at home or in another location," says Ruyak. Much of Howrey's work is document-intensive litigation, intellectual property and international arbitration. And already, much of the firm's document management work is done by more than 200 employees, most non-lawyers, who work in an office in Falls Church, Va. It's not a huge leap, Ruyak hopes, to extend that work to India, where a paralegal would earn $20,000 to $25,000 per year, as opposed to $40,000 to $50,000 in the United States.  Ruyak concedes that clients "don't want to use outsourcing." But this, he repeats, will be different. "We will have our own people working on this. It's training, it's control, maintaining the security, the quality of the results." He adds that clients will have the choice of whether to use the Indian office to cut costs or to have their work done in the U.S.

But setting up shop in India is only partly about saving money for clients.  It's also about potential business opportunities, as highlighted by this recent interview with Stuart Popham, senior partner of Clifford Chance, which recently opened an office in India to handle back-office and administrative tasks.   Popham discussed how India's booming local economy offers many potential business opportunities for law firms.

Ultimately, it's those business opportunities that are driving firms to set up outposts in India, argues Jordan Furlong. The Law21 blogger and editor-in-chief of the Canadian Bar Association's National magazine writes that although foreign firms cannot, at present, practice law in India,

they can plant their flags in a related industry (document management), build up relations and goodwill with the local Bar, let their brands seep into the marketplace, and prepare for the inevitable day when foreign law firms can open up full shops. Contracting with a Pangea3 is great for getting high-quality legal work for your Western clients, but it doesn’t give you market presence and first-hand experience and expertise in India itself.  Maybe Howrey and Clifford have decided to buy, not rent, that expertise. If so, that could presage a whole new dimension in the relationship between the legal industries of India and the West.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 12, 2008 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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