Legal Process OutsourcingTelecoms 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."
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-30 22:09
Seems many big corporates will follow this trend and start appointing LPOs to do some of their in-house work. This will mean a huge opportunity for law students in India ... tho that may not be the best.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-30 23:53
Real good news. The decision clearly shows client's Preference for expertise as against size.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-31 01:58
If the biggest law firm in India is really only $40m, as written on Legally India a few weeks ago, then LPOs really are the future and will be much more important to the Indian economy in the long run.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-31 02:11
#3, your projection is very prudent ... but, the biggest law firm's revenue is much much higher than what has been reported in LI, according to RSG's report.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-31 06:06
Balaji take action against United Lex for they are practicing law in India! mire them in court room battles in Chennai...
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-31 13:56
question: why should any domestic lawyer be required to pass a bar or get a law degree if you don't have to be licensed to practice law? That's effectively what LPOs are; teh unlicensed practice of law.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-03-31 19:59
Obviously, they will come to regret this. Then there will be a huge over-reaction. Ah prudence - we hardly knew ye.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-04-01 23:14
LPOs don't practice law. Rather they enable the practice of law. Six Ethics Committees of various Bar Associations in the United States, and the American Bar Association, have examined this issue in detail. All of them have concluded that a United States lawyer does not breach his ethical obligations by outsourcing work to a non-lawyer or a foreign lawyer.

To all the anti-outsourcing activists who still believe that doing off-shored legal work is "practice" of law - look at it this way. Even assuming that working on a US or a UK legal issue from India amounts to "practice" - then what Indian lawyers are doing is effectively "practicing" US or UK law even in the absence of reciprocity! US and UK lawyers are not permitted to practice Indian law but Indian lawyers are permitted to practice their laws. Isn't that wonderful?

Legal Dodo
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-04-06 03:50
@ Legal Dodo.. Well said.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-04-06 10:36
Great win for UL no doubt but this has put the in-house legal team in Gurgaon out of job. None of the BT lawyers have taken up the offer of UnitedLex. They preferred to be jobless rather than be on the rolls of UL. Insider's story: UL has pulled off this victory not because of its technology or process but because of its ties with BT's top management.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-04-06 21:05
Thank you, Barely Legal.

Legal Dodo
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-04-06 21:11
@10. The article clearly says that "[t]he UnitedLex legal team exclusively working with BT would start with a headcount of 15 . . ."

Did the deal involve United Lex hiring BT lawyers? What's the point in outsourcing then? I'm not defending UL here - just curious.

Legal Dodo
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-05-07 09:58
I don't believe LPO in the best interest of any lawyers or law students. Th elow end jobs are more suite dto paralegals . Having worked as a paralegal and qualified a law degree in UK, I amost many other graduates could not find any legal work to do. Outsourcing to India mean lost jobs for us, importantly for my Indian Counterparts I am sure they feel the way we do, we paid a lot of money and energy to achieve a law degree hoping to be a lawyer , not doing some backend low level legal work that put you in a glass box - no options or abilitie sto move sideways or perhpas rise over the years a syou would in a legal practice. Your aim is always to a Parner in a Firm. Not deriding paralegal work but this is like a Doctor getting a Paramedic/nursing job. It is a waste of our talents.Only BT benefits in the form of even higher profit margins
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