Lawyers Find Work Outsourced

Many in need of legal advice find they can't afford the high fees. Indian lawyers hope to offer a cheaper solution. Host Jennifer Ludden talks about the latest in outsourcing with Puneet Mohey, a Detroit resident and the president of Lexadigm, a business that provides Indian lawyers to American companies.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

By now you may be used to talking on the phone with someone in India when your computer crashes or you want to order something from a catalog. But for legal problems, according to Legal Affairs magazine, there's now a growing market for outsourced lawyers. The magazine points out you can hire an Indian attorney for $65 an hour for work that would cost 250 an hour in the US. Joining me now by phone from Michigan is Puneet Mohey. He's the president of a company called Lexadigm, which provides Indian lawyers for American companies.

Welcome.

Mr. PUNEET MOHEY (President, Lexadigm): Hi, Jennifer. How are you?

LUDDEN: Good, thanks. What kind of legal services do you offer?

Mr. MOHEY: We, for example, do research in different states or under federal law. Then a lot of times we would draft briefs. We will draft responsive briefs. We've done some contract drafting. Then we've done some document review. And then we do--on the patent side, we draft patent applications and provisional patents.

LUDDEN: I understand you actually prepared your first brief for the US Supreme Court a few months ago?

Mr. MOHEY: It was fun, though I didn't really find it such a big deal, honestly, because we've been preparing a lot of US Circuit Court of Appeals' briefs.

LUDDEN: What was that case about?

Mr. MOHEY: It involved a tax code rule procedure, and the issue was whether it conformed to the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

LUDDEN: Give me a sense of how Indian law compares with American law.

Mr. MOHEY: Well, Indian law is very similar to American law. Both follow the common law system. India happens to be one of the largest English-speaking populations in the world; official language there is English. And old law school teachers used to really think like a lawyer; does not teach you law. And the legal vocabulary is typically the same, you know. So all you need is some--a research engine to really find the law. It's something just like finding the law in a different jurisdiction if you're in the US.

LUDDEN: And is most of the work done on the Internet, I assume?

Mr. MOHEY: Yes. Most of the US laws now are available on the Internet. And the search engines like Westlaw and LexisNexis provide access to them, and they're subscription-based search engines.

LUDDEN: How many lawyers do you have working for you in India?

Mr. MOHEY: Currently we have a staff of 10, which contains seven attorneys.

LUDDEN: Now are they accredited to an American bar?

Mr. MOHEY: No, they aren't. How it works is that we work in a capacity as a legal aide to an attorney. We're not in the business of practicing law. For example, a lot of law firms typically have paralegals who would do a lot of research for lawyers, or a lot of lawyers who work for partners or senior attorneys as associates and they never sign their name on whatever is done. So it's perfectly legal to do that.

LUDDEN: Who are your clients?

Mr. MOHEY: Basically lawyers who are solo practitioners or are in small firms. And then our clients also are general counsels for corporations, or in-house counsels.

LUDDEN: Now outsourcing is a touchy issue in this country. I mean, have you gauged reaction among some junior-level lawyers out there, basically, whose work has been taken away?

Mr. MOHEY: I don't think it's going to ever reach the point where, you know, you would see a sharp decline in lawyers being hired and law firms laying off attorneys. And the reason is because you cannot really outsource all legal chores. For example, you cannot outsource something which would require active negotiation or communications with a client or somebody. That has to be done at the US end. You cannot outsource something which requires active analysis. For example, you can find the law, but you can come to different ways on what you find and so, basically, decide what to do. Those mental processes are--those have to be done at the US end.

LUDDEN: How much do your lawyers in India make?

Mr. MOHEY: I would say currently, on the average, it is about $12,000 a year for a competitive lawyer.

LUDDEN: And how does that compare to other Indian wages?

Mr. MOHEY: That is much better than generally what people make out of school starting in their career in India.

LUDDEN: Puneet Mohey is president of Lexadigm, which provides Indian lawyers for American firms. We spoke with him from Michigan.

Thank you.

Mr. MOHEY: Thanks very much.

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