Now the U.K. Outsources Paralegal Work to India. Who Is Next?

Outsourcing paralegal work to India is a big, big business in the U.S.  Primarily the choice of BigFirms in Legal Land, the idea is to have lower end work performed by competent paralegals for a lot less money and still receive the same quality as you would if a U.S. paralegal completed the task.

Now, the U.K. is on the bandwagon.  With over 500,000 paralegals (twice the number in the U.S.), the U.K.’s major firms are following the lead of the U.S. Eversheds has struck a deal to outsource low-end legal work to India.

The firm has signed a contract with a third-party provider to outsource small commercial contracts that are too expensive to carry out in the U.K.or in-house.

The initiative, the result of a review led by commercial group head Jonathan Guest, will initially allow the firm to offer cheaper rates for low-end volume work such as commercial contracts.

However, the scheme could be expanded to cover larger-scale work such as due diligence. Guest said: "Clients like the concept [of outsourcing work] but want someone to establish the process and provide verification. From our perspective we are bringing a solution to a perceived client need — we will hopefully be introduced to new clients through this and it will lead the way for the firm to act for them on larger scale work."

The move comes after Eversheds announced plans earlier this year to increase the amount of legal work sent to alliance firms such as South Africa’s Routledge Modise. The Johannesburg firm, which will take on tasks including due diligence, drafting and document checking, is seen as an especially lucrative partner because, in addition to the low cost-base, the country has a similar legal system and native English-speaking lawyers. Eversheds’ outsourcing initiative comes as Clifford Chance plans to expand its New Delhi offshore center to 300 staff by the end of April next year. The firm is also planning to increase the amount of legal work carried out in India by upping the number of paralegals there. The center currently houses 13 paralegals but that should increase to 20 by the end of 2008.

The team supports practice areas including litigation and capital markets by covering routine tasks such as research, document review, database creation and proofreading.

The offshore center, which launched in September last year and currently has 110 support staff, is already helping Clifford Chance to save around 8 million pounds ($16 million) each year through the finance and IT services it performs.

Clifford managing partner David Childs said: "Using paralegals in India allows us to reduce our chargeout rates to clients for paralegal services — generally it will not save costs for the firm."