Telecoms major BT has entered into an agreement to outsource part of its global in-house legal work to legal process outsourcing (LPO) provider UnitedLex, beginning with a team of 15 lawyers based mostly in India.
BT announced yesterday that by "moving the existing in house team offering legal support services to UnitedLex, the BT Legal team will be free to focus on more complex and value-added activity".
BT Global Services general counsel David Eveleigh said in a statement: "We are keen to develop cost effective ways of sourcing legal and commercial services whilst retaining quality… Our existing Gurgaon based in-house team delivering legal support services has performed extremely well, but the time is right for us to transition the work and our people to an established legal process outsourcer, who can offer industry best practices and provide global scalability."
"We believe that the services offered by UnitedLex will complement our global panel of law firms."
UnitedLex CEO Dan Reed told Legally India: "One of the reasons that we've been selected by BT is that we competed very strongly against Infosys and CPA [Global] and we were chosen over those companies because of the technology we provide.
He explained that UnitedLex was highly technology and process driven, having taken inspiration from the way Accenture had structured its consulting operations. "We are not just a bodies shop – we are driving higher and higher up that curve."
The UnitedLex legal team exclusively working with BT would start with a headcount of 15 but that it would likely grow a "fair amount", said Reed.
UnitedLex was founded only four years ago in the US but has grown to around 550 lawyers globally, according to Reed, with a majority of 425 based in India and the rest sitting in the US, followed by Israel.
He predicted that the company would hit a turnover of $35m to $40m in the next financial year and that the LPO industryas a whole would evolve rapidly with changes already taking place.
"Some of the earlier movers that first hit the market place are struggling," he said, "and if you don't have a truly optimal model you'll find it difficult to meet the challenges."
"There are maybe four or five [LPO] firms that are even relevant, and of those maybe only a couple that are going to make it. There will be a lot of them that go out of business in the next year, or consolidate or are acquired for manpower."
Referring to last year's court ruling against foreign firms practising law in India, he argued that the Indian regulations governing LPOs should be clarified in the coming years.
Reed said that India would be unlikely to prevent LPOs from operating in the country, expecting that if LPOs were banned from India by regulation they would simply move their operations to competing jurisdictions such as Malaysia or South Africa.
Reed noted that UnitedLex was not a law firm, even though its target area of work was higher-end work than what was traditionally associated with LPOs.
"The first generation of LPOs was all about redlining documents and very low-end types of legal work," he said. "Law firms are doing much higher end legal work, very judgement based legal work. But they don’t use technology like we use it: we stay very much in the mid-complexity sort of zone."
Unlike law firms UnitedLex lawyers did not opine on law and did not practise law, he added. "We don't compete with Indian law firms and we sure as hell don't practice Indian law."