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07/06/06

U.S. law firms consider outsourcing


Law firms looking to improve their bottom line in light of the high costs of business are exploring the possibilities of outsourcing their work to Asia and Latin America.

Large corporations, such as Microsoft, have already begun sending their patent research to offshore work sites in India. The controversy surrounding outsourcing, including accusations that it exploits foreign labor and takes jobs from Americans, has not stopped many U.S. companies from utilizing outsourcing as a means of reducing costs. Some publications report that outsourcing legal work to a country like India could cost a third to a fourth of the cost of getting the same work done in the U.S.

Seattle-based Perkins Coie LLP set up a task force to study the proposal and handle the sales pitch from various overseas legal associations and business process outsourcing solution providers. Estimates provided by a leading market research firm based in Boston, Forrester Research, indicate that as many as 40,000 local jobs in legal services could move offshore by 2010 as a result of this phenomenon.

Law firms turning to closed systems of pay
In the last few years, disagreements over compensation packages have caused rifts between law firm partners and the dissolution of numerous law firms. Some experts predict that closed compensation systems may alleviate the conflicts.

Most U.S. law firms operate under open systems of remuneration, as opposed to the closed systems of the corporate world. Within the open system, all salaries and bonuses are disclosed to the entire staff. This can lead to in-fighting and salary disputes. Greenberg Traurig and Jones Day are notable exceptions, functioning under closed systems of pay, as per a report by The National Law Journal. Advocates of a closed system say that it increases collaboration instead of competition.

Observers familiar with the issue claim that more and more law firms are now opting for closed pay systems. Reputed firms like DLA Piper are restricting the availability of compensation data on a 'need to know basis' only. Even the partners themselves are being kept out of the picture, and only practice heads can make such information available.

Crills merges with Walkers Group
Crills Advocates, a provider of institutional legal services both domestic and international, and Walkers, a global offshore law firm catering to the financial community, have officially merged.

The merged entity will maintain the Walkers name and will be based in Jersey. Jersey meanwhile continues to maintain its reputation as a major offshore financial center of considerable interest to European companies.

The merger implies that Walkers will now be able to offer an array of legal services to its global clients. Walkers focuses principally on corporate and international finance law with an emphasis on capital markets and structured finance, asset finance, hedge funds, and private equity. It has offices in London, Hong Kong, Dubai, and the British Virgin Islands.

Stetson University College of Law to launch new Law Center
The new Chester H. Ferguson Law Center will house the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation and the Bar Association. The 17,300 square feet, two story building is adjacent to the Stetson University College of Law Tampa Campus and is expected to be completed in 12 to 18 months.

The HCBA is the largest voluntary bar association in Florida and one of the largest in the United States, with nearly 3,700 legal professionals as its members. The Bar Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization with the goal of serving the legal needs of the disadvantaged.

Perkins Coie LLP

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