What are mega law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis doing placing legal work in India? They're joining a trend that will move around 50,000 legal jobs from the US overseas by 2015. 2

What are mega law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis doing placing legal work in India? They’re joining a trend that will move around 50,000 legal jobs from the US overseas by 2015.

Bruce Masterson, the chief operating officer of Socrates Media, asked his outside counsel to customize a residential lease for all 50 U.S. states in 2003. The firm’s estimate: about $400,000. He rejected that price tag and hired QuisLex, in Hyderabad, India, which did it for $45,000.

“It was good quality,” said Masterson, whose Chicago-based company publishes legal forms on the Internet. “We’ve been working together ever since.”

Clients are pushing law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis to send basic legal tasks to India, where lawyers tag documents and investigate takeover targets for as little as $20 an hour. The firms are reacting to a trend that will move about 50,000 U.S. legal jobs overseas by 2015, according to Boston-based Forrester Research.

“The objective is to have only the most valuable people in London or New York, and the others in India, China or Columbus, Ohio,” said Robert Profusek, co-head of the mergers and acquisitions practice at Jones Day in New York, who sends low-end work to the cheapest locations and plans to open a document center in India. “Lawyers are service providers. We are not gods.”

Companies with in-house legal departments in India include DuPont, Cisco Systems, and Morgan Stanley, according to ValueNotes Database.

The Indian legal-services industry will more than quadruple to $640 million by 2010 from $146 million in 2006, ValueNotes, of Maharashtra, India, said.

General Electric sends about $3 million a year in routine legal work to its Indian affiliate, said Janine Dascenzo, the GE managing counsel for legal operations.

“India has very talented lawyers,” she said. “But it’s a misconception that you can just send work there and it gets done. You need proper supervision and security.”

Kirkland & Ellis, the seventh-largest U.S. law firm, works with offshore attorneys at the client’s request, said Gregg Kirchhoefer, a senior partner in the firm’s outsourcing and technology transaction practice.

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