Sunday, March 28, 2004

Outsourcing of Law?
Here is a post frequent commentor Ryan Costa is sure to love. A Newspaper in New Orlean is reporting that certain tasks in the field of law are being outsourced to India. The law community is predictable aghast, speaking of how these communications could possibly be "intercepted" by third parties, and other red-herring concerns.

Will lawyers in the future lose jobs over the issue? Definitaly a possibility, but not quite so sure.

One important piece of background information - entry into law is in theory strictly regulated. Nearly all states have unauthorized practice of law rules which permit only attorneys admitted to the state bar of the issue at hand to practice law. However, "practicing law" has diminished in signicance as of late. Self-help legal books have survived challenges, accounting/investment banking/and real estate firms have been chipping away at what traditionally was viewed as legal practice, and most controverisally in the legal profession, full service firms have arisen where lawyers work with and are governed by non-lawyers, and the rules aren't enforced all that often anymore anyway. However, there still remain a few core functions of what it means to practice law, and system advantages (confidentiality) to retaining an attorney.

So returning to the question, will lawyers lose jobs? For the reasons listed above, there are limits to how much export of jobs can occur due to legal barriers for non-lawyer competition. However, what is likely to occur at first is that it will be paralegals who will get phased out. This of course will lower the cost of (1) law generally, raising tolerance for more billable hours/higher law firm profits (2) change the relative cost between legal assistants and attorneys, making it more costly to give work to an attorney. Number one points to job increases for lawyers, number two points to job decreases. So my view is that it could go either way. Which may not be so bad a thing for the country (although not necessarily a good thing for me)

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