first let’s outsource all the lawyers …


i’ve officially beaten that reference in the title (Henry VI, part II) into the ground so you won’t be seeing it anymore (well, maybe once again down the road … ).

anyway, here is the first of the conversations between me (m) and my erstwhile attorney-programmer-web-entrepreneur-former partner (k). here we were discussing one of (k)’s favorite subjects — how Indians are going to put americans out of a job because of their low wages, high average level of education, and tireless work ethic (as if — everyone knows the chinese have dibs on that plan). anyway, here’s a snippet: [ed. note: i’ve taken some license with the conversations – mmh]

(m) you thought i was ignoring our projects and wanted to end our working relationship. the fact is that much of my time is already committed. doesn’t everyone have that problem?

(k) actually, projects like this one are a race. big companies go flying down the track at 1000 mph. small businesses burn themselves out and still only go 100 mph. and now you have kids in India able to develop anything we can except better, faster and cheaper. and they are much better funded and driven than we. they are going 900 mph for next to nothing,

(m) okay, so not every project is a home run. but lawyers like us still add value to the average business enterprise: we lawyers are knowledge workers that cannot simply be replaced and will forever have the edge in our locality because that is the way the law is structured, period end of story. industries like automotive may be able to outsource unskilled or semi-skilled workers, but not highly skilled knowledge workers like lawyers!

(k) yes and no. you have role and value … but it is extremely limited; it comes from your education and location. but remember — even when you discover an opportunity that only a lawyer could see, the kids in India will have a dozen websites that do the same thing within a few weeks. so much for the value of ideas.

(m) okay, but our industry is still secure. for instance, no one has come along to challenge the legal oligopoly of westlaw and lexis. where is the Indian alternative?

(k) actually, there are hundreds of Indian firms that do what Lexis does and will out-pace it in 5 to 10 years (Indian firms in parallel industries are now as large as Lexis, so one will probably just buy them at some point). as for your defense of the uniqueness of attorneys, I disagree. i was recently reading an ABA discussion group about Indian legal outsourcing operations. one lawyer replaced his associate with an outsourcing firm and was quite satisfied with the results. face it: much of what lawyers do can easily be outsourced. of course there will always be a need for someone to show up and present a case in court or schmooze a clerk [although e-filling should reduce that loophole – ed. note] but these roles will pay much less in the future because the attorney only serves as the person who fulfills one little piece of the overall service puzzle, and once jobs are broken down to their base components nearly anybody will be able to do them. what was that again about skilled labor?

for example, in setting up my tax website i researched the market and found that 90-95% of websites that allow taxpayers to file their tax returns online are owned and operated by a single group of kids in India …. yet their websites are more accurate and compliant with U.S. tax laws than sites operated by Intuit (Quicken)

I have even noticed a shift in sweat-equity web teams here in the U.S. these days most web development projects don’t have a leader and individual members do not even know each other (many are not even in the US). instead they meet once or twice (usually online), divide up tasks, set deadlines, and get to it. anyone who doesn’t do their job is promptly replaced. in light of ruthless foreign competition this is the new reality: in web development, as in the practice of law. what this model amounts to is social networking applied to project development. the real value of the legal function is limited to IP work and resolving particular US regulatory laws (that may or may not impact a particular project). ideas are 100% free and the value of a lawyer is limited severely under the new model….

the only way that I can see to get around outsourcing is to outsource ourselves…. meaning we move to other countries and continue to work in the US via the web. take advantage of lower costs of doing business and living while earning the same US wage….

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One response to “first let’s outsource all the lawyers …

  1. Pingback: practice management blog Findlaw not playing fair? «

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