Job Outsourcing: What Does it Mean for the Legal Profession?

"Outsourcing" is not a term with which I am particularly familiar. The word is tossed around as something that takes jobs away from Americans, as companies take advantage of cheap labor prices in other countries. I have always associated this phenomenon with industries such as computer technology and automotive manufacturing. When I heard of law firms practicing outsourcing, I was baffled to say the least. And the most intriguing fact is that this technique is not a new development.

After finding an article in the New York Times 2010 archive reporting on legal outsourcing, I was curious to know just how long this practice has been in use. It turns out, the earliest occurrence of legal outsourcing dates back to the mid-nineties. Considering all the backlash industrial outsourcing has received, it is surprising to see that legal outsourcing has not only stayed, but actually has grown. For the firms there is a practical and economical reason for sending certain jobs overseas and it is the same reason that drives many other industries abroad--labor is cheaper. Why spend 200 dollars an hour for an employee performing basic research when you can spend half that abroad? Or, as the website CPA Global puts it, "when [lawyers] are free to focus on the big things, they can produce even greater results." CPA Global posits that with the removal of menial tasks, lawyers can truly work to the best of their ability. This sounds like a good thing. Who doesn't want their lawyer to have a clear mind when the time comes for trial? But as an undergraduate, this is not good news. Many of the jobs that are sent to countries like India are those that normally go to entry-level lawyers and law students just getting their feet wet. This is sadly just more bad news to consider along with the decline in jobs for law school graduates. How is a student supposed to find work when that work is suddenly being shipped elsewhere? Well, there really isn't cause to worry, yet.

Legal outsourcing is still a rather small niche. But some very good advice can be found in an article posted by Merrick Pastore in April on LawSpaceMatch.com. The article impresses upon all up-and-coming lawyers the importance of networking. When a firm hires a lawyer from another country, they are a faceless and possibly nameless being. An American law student on the other hand certainly doesn't have to be. Networking allows employers to see potential and gauge drive of legal hopefuls. By showing a little tenacity, it is possible to convince others that you are worth the greater paycheck. Sources: http://www.cpaglobal.com/legal_services_outsourcing/ http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/business/global/05legal.html?pagewanted=2 Contributed By: Meg R. DeFrancesco See Also: The Pre-Law Outlook, Advice on Summer Jobs: Both for Now and in the Future, Should I Stay in School? Just Look at the Unemployment Rate

Should I Stay in School? Just Look at the Unemployment Rate

One of the largest trends I've noticed in the last few years is the increasing rate at which newly graduated college students and those older are extending their stay in school. Of my friends who recently graduated, very few of them were content to go back to mom and dad's to live at home and work in an entry-level position. Many didn't even take the famed gap-year--instead choosing to go straight into graduate school. It's really no surprise. More and more employers are seeking those who have achieved some sort of college degree. An Associate's degree is good, a Bachelor's is better, and a Master's or Doctorate degree is like writing your own check to success...or so I thought. In June 2011 the Pittsburgh Business Times reported an estimated 87.6% of 2010 Law School graduates found employment in the months following commencement. After reading this I found myself a little disconcerted considering the national unemployment rate for May-September of that year averaged around 9.6%. While a 2.8% disparity doesn't seem like a great deal, the difference is still unsettling for one very important reason: student loans. As an undergraduate I am fortunate not to have any debt to my name, but with so many of my peers already neck deep in loans or on some sort of financial aid I can't help but think that I will be amongst them soon enough--especially when a year of law school can easily cost $45,000. Often times I think many undergraduate students choose the pre-professional tracks such as pre-health and pre-law simply for the expected big payout in the long run. It's true that lawyers tend to earn more in a given year than many other occupations (the median annual salary settling just above 100K as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), but if no one is hiring, than those already considerable debts will only compound. A debt scenario runs on a continuous loop through my mind that goes something like this: Social and parental pressure dictates you attend a First Tier school + 45,000$ tuition x 4 years (taken in loans) + rent + cell phone bill + groceries + gas (prices of which may or may not force you to take public transit) + health insurance + auto insurance + 45,000 tuition x 3 (or 4) years graduate school + taxes (can't forget them) = severe debt, impending depression and subsequent reliance on Parents This situation may seem slightly exaggerated but when you consider the rising costs of living and the slump that the employment rate for law students has fallen into, it really isn't so difficult to imagine. So maybe this could also explain why so many have decided to stay in school. Maybe right now "real life" is just too terrifying. At least in school we're safe--albeit temporarily. Contributed By: Meg R. DeFrancesco Notes: See Also: The Pre-Law Outlook, Persistence of Economic Downturn Forces a New Legal Landscape, I Need a Job!

Atlanta Law Firm Gets Sued By Landlord For Back Rent - Share Law Office Space Instead

A major Atlanta law firm, Epstein Becker & Green has been sued by its landlord for unpaid rent for its Atlanta/Buckhead law office. While the law firm and the landlord were engaged in negotiations regarding failure to pay for legal space under the lease agreement, the law firm has been sued for failure to pay rental payments in the amount of $855,000 in back rent. Ken Menendez, the Atlanta local managing shareholder, was surprised by the filing of the lawsuit and stated, "... notwithstanding the lawsuit, we expect to work out a deal to restructure our lease." Epstein Becker is not the only larger law firm which has contracted during the recent recession. Other Atlanta law firms have also downsized. Epstein Becker has allowed one and one half floors of "dark space" in Resurgens Plaza, a well-known Atlanta Buckhead commercial building near Lenox Mall. Atlanta's commercial real estate landscape has left a lot of law firms with vacant space. As a result of tenants having too much empty space, even when attempting to renegotiate with landlords, law firms risk getting sued for back rent. A sublet is an option for tenants with excessive vacant law space. Extra law office space may be subleased to lawyers seeking a turn-key law office situated in a prestigious commercial building. Smaller law firms in Atlanta are engaging in this space sharing and benefit from reduced costs. LawSpaceMatch.com provides a simple avenue for lawyers and law firms with empty law space to sublease to lawyers in transition and seeking to sublease from lawyers. Law firms may post their empty law space on LawSpaceMatch.com for free. Lawyers seeking to share space may search by zip code or by custom criteria based on areas of practice, and other amenities such as receptionists, shared secretaries, covered parking, and rental rates for the sublease. Perhaps during its negotiations with the landlord at Resurgens Plaza, Epstein Becker could have considered utilizing a free service and obtained a sublease, even for a short period of time, allowing a sublease for lawyers desiring the creation of a law practice within its prestigious law space within Resurgens Plaza. Notes: Fulton Daily Report - Friday, July 1, 2011 See Also: The Need For Law Space Match, Landlords Make Room for New Tenants, Provide Relief for Existing Tenants, Atlanta's Largest Law Firm Comes Out on Top with Strategic Cost Cutting

Lawyers Sharing Space - Benefits and Responsibilities

Atlanta lawyers are subleasing with other lawyers and entering into law space sharing arrangements. The Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct do not prohibit attorneys from sharing office space. With law firms downsizing, the empty law office space entices new lawyers into a sublet deal. Know the benefits and responsibilities.

Benefits of law space sharing include:

(i) the occasional consult or assisting with certain legal issues which may arise;

(ii) reduction of overhead costs; and

(iii) potential referrals for legal work in each lawyers' area of practice.

While lawyers seek to share rent, copier costs, internet costs, legal research expenses, lawyers must use extra care about maintaining the confidences and secrets of clients. For instance, if the lawyers sharing law space retain a joint receptionist who performs legal tasks, she or he should be advised to maintain confidentiality of the clients and keep files for the clients in a separate work area. Ethical issues can be triggered by sloppy administrative practices. All confidential information gained in the professional relations with a client, unless the client consents after consultation are required by the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 1.6) to be protected. The duty of confidentiality shall continue after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated (Rule 1.6(e)). So the files must be kept separate even after the case or matter is completed.

The bottom line: lawyers or law firms should not fail to take adequate measures to protect the client's confidential information of each space-sharing lawyer. Lawyers who are dual professionals also must make clear to the public the separate nature of their legal and other businesses, and should take measures to protect client confidentiality.

The dual professional may be required to keep separate phone numbers, letterhead, books, records, and files. The lawyer should take special care to keep separate the provision of law-related and legal services in order to minimize the risk that the client/customer will assume that the law-related services are legal services. (See Georgia Rule 5.7, comment (8)).

Each state may have a specific position regarding the dual professional practicing in one office. For instance, Colorado takes a stronger view, stating that it is easier to avoid confusion if the second occupation is not conducted from the legal office. The basis for Colorado's opinion is that risks such as improper solicitation are increased when one office is used. Whatever the commissions ultimately decide, space-sharing is an important concern for many lawyers and can be maneuvered easily if thoughtful steps are taken prior to conducting the business of law. Lawyers should always remember that the essence of the Rules of Professional Conduct is based on communication with the clients.

Notes: See Also: You Can't Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop, Atlanta Lawyers Sublease Space, The Need for Law Space Match, Law Firms with Unused Offices

Sandra Day O'Connor Shared Law Office Space

Even graduating third in your class from Stanford Law does not guarantee a credible position at a law firm. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor found out just this upon graduating from Stanford. Rather than accepting the legal secretarial positions that various firms offered her, she opted to start a private law practice. In order to keep costs down, Justice O'Connor opened an office in Phoenix, Arizona, and shared law space with another solo practicing lawyer. In doing this, she was able to carry on a solo practice while cutting fixed real estate costs. Although made upon necessity in Justice O'Connor's case, the decision to share office space with other lawyers is made by a significant amount of legal solo practitioners. The reasoning behind this decision can be brought down to pure economic principle; it benefits all involved to reduce fixed costs in an office space, and law office subletting does just this. In today's uncertain economy, fixed costs are a large concern, and their reduction allows lawyers to dedicate more funds towards other aspects needed to improve and maintain their practice. In addition, the sharing of law space allows young independent lawyers fresh from law school to surround themselves with like-minded solo practitioners. These co-tenants represent a source of advice, support, and potential client referrals that are essential components for the success of one just entering the field of law. Today, these benefits are becoming increasingly more important, as the unstable economy and job market have made solo practice a more attractive, and in some instances, necessary option. Thus, a service allowing Atlanta solo practitioners to connect and share law space is something that is incredibly valuable both now and looking forward. Elaine M. Russell, a lawyer practicing corporate law in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia saw this need and created LawSpaceMatch.com. This free service allows Atlanta lawyers to quickly and easily create attorney profiles and post empty office space in all parts of Atlanta. Notes: See Also: Law Firms with Unused Offices, You Can't Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop , The Business of Law

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