“Let’s Offshore The Lawyers”

Sure lots of us would agree with this sentiment, but what might it mean for paralegals?

"Mention offshore outsourcing, and Americans fume. But who would cry if we outsourced the work of lawyers, with their fat fees and endless strategies for adding years to litigation? Sounds like a great idea, but many might say it can’t be done anyway. Legal work is too sensitive and technical to risk farming out to Asia.

"Try telling that to DuPont, the giant chemical company. On the seventh floor of an old office building on the outskirts of Manila, 30 Filipino attorneys, including three who have passed U.S. bar exams, are seated elbow-to-elbow with 50 other staff at long tables crammed with PCs. Working in three shifts seven days a week, they read, analyze, and annotate digital images of memos, payroll and medical records, old engineering specs, and other documents that might be used as evidence in DuPont legal cases.

"The operation is part of a tieup between DuPont and offshoring shop OfficeTiger that is testing the limits of how far legal services outsourcing can go. Attorneys and others in OfficeTiger’s Philippines and India offices are helping out on more than a dozen projects, from monitoring old contracts and licensing agreements to managing documentary evidence for product-liability cases. ‘We want to be the center of excellence for this whole area of offshore document management,’ says DuPont assistant general counsel Thomas L. Sager.

[snip]

"That doesn’t mean U.S. lawyers will be getting pink slips, or even lowering their hourly fees. They’re still needed for developing arguments, writing briefs, and other trial work. But DuPont figures 70% of the labor in a typical insurance or liability case can be outsourced. U.S. law firms often bill around $150 an hour for document-processing by paralegals. ‘Law firms historically have made much of their revenue on administrative and paralegal work you don’t really need a lawyer to do,’ says OfficeTiger Co-CEO Joseph Sigelman. Offshore providers such as OfficeTiger, bought in April by R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., charge around $30 an hour. That’s possible because an attorney with five years of experience can be hired for around $30,000, including benefits, in the Philippines, whose legal system is similar to America’s. That’s half what a veteran U.S. corporate paralegal earns, and one-fifth what a first-year attorney can fetch in New York."

So, tell me, how can paralegals thrive & survive when attorneys work for less than $32/hour (!) in New York & D.C.? And Fortune 500 corporations outsource paralegal projects to attorneys in foreign countries who work for the same rate as paralegals?

Paralegals threatened again!

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