Outsourcing legal services

In a new article at the JCA publisher’s website, Ernesto Noronha, Premilla D’Cruz and Sarosh Kuruvilla write about the outsourcing of legal services from the West – mainly the US – to India, and the impacts this has for lawyers and their employment in India.

Globalisation of commodification: legal process outsourcing and Indian lawyers” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1157885) is a relatively new account of this process of proletarianisation and commodification in knowledge sector supply chains.

The paper’s abstract states:

Legal process outsourcing (LPO) refers to the contracting of legal work from regions where it is costly to perform, such as the US to areas where it can be performed at a significantly decreased cost. LPO has been made possible by the disaggregation of the legal processes into discrete units, each of which can then outsourced to cheaper service providers. Anecdotal evidence suggests a variety of benefits such as financial gains, opportunities to perform “global” work in a corporate atmosphere and acquisition of important skills and training that enhances the prestige of the host country lawyers. In India, which has played a significant role, LPO firms are viewed as important catalysts in the transformation of the country’s highly stratified legal profession based on social identities. This qualitative study, based on 38 interviews, concludes that the corporate culture was an attractive proposition for lawyers from non-elite backgrounds; however, the commodification of offshored work led to a deprofessionalisation of lawyers, reducing them to “glorified clerks.” As a result, LPO firms only provided parallel avenues for career mobility but did not destabilise the local legal market which at its core remains socially networked.

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