Rising Legal Costs – A Solution

1.0 Background

Globalization has brought tremendous changes in the global business arena and the BPOs and later LPOs are the direct offshoot of it. LPOs have come into being in India and elsewhere in the world primarily to cater to the clients of US and other developed nations as far as the legal processes are concerned to not only provide quality service but also to reduce the legal costs. In the past decade or so, a good number of LPOs have opened their businesses in India and in the light of rising legal costs and in order to find a workable solution to it we need to examine the issue in detail.

1.1 A Few Illustrations

Cisco’s Systems Inc., is a company that sells networking products, routing and switching systems. The company has a total legal spending that amounts to a little over one-third of 1% of company revenue, with non-litigation expenses running at about 0.16%. Measured in terms of dollars, Cisco’s 170-member lawyer department spends $38 million internally and $80 million a year on outside counsel. The $32.8 billion company has 51,000 employees spanning across 80 countries. (Leslie A. Gordon in GC California Magazine Published in their website http://www.law.com.) Microsoft managed to reduce its legal costs for the last fiscal year but still the company is involved in lot more litigation matters in Europe (Todd Bishop in P-I reporter). It would be an interesting scenario to collect the info pertaining to each US Company’s annual spending on the legal costs. It will certainly not please those who manage the companies, not in the least the shareholders.

2.0 Existing Arrangements

There are certain existing arrangements in place to deal with the issue of legal costs. The arrangements include in-house counsel department for every company. The in-house counsel takes care of all the legal matters pertaining to the company he works for and he also depends on outside counsels for the same. It would be appropriate if we understand the roles played by the in-house counsels and outside counsels vis-à-vis the legal costs.

2.1 In-house Counsels

The American Bar Association developed a model rule on foreign legal consultants (FLCs) in 1993. FLCs offer legal advice on international law and the law of the countries in which they are qualified to practice if they meet certain requirements. American Bar Association recently endorsed recommendations of its Commission based on Multijurisdictional Practice (“MJP Commission”) including revisions to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (“Model Rules”) regarding unauthorized practice, jurisdiction to discipline out-of-state lawyers, and choice of law rules governing multistate representation. These revisions are currently being examined and awaiting for the implementation. U.S.lawyers, seeking to increase their opportunities to offer their services overseas for liberalization of admission requirements under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) including both inbound and outbound of trade of U.S In August 2006, the Committee on Professional and Judicial Ethics of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (“the Committee”) which published a Formal Opinion stating attorneys could ethically contract out legal support services abroad.

American Conference Institute (ACI) announced to hold an LPO Summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on January 16 and17, 2008 to develop global legal support strategies, identify negotiating outsourcing contracts, and to optimize ongoing relationship

2.2 Problems and Challenges

Both the risks and exposures an in-house counsel faces are pronouncedly greater in comparison with the other lawyers as the in-house counsels are concurrently encumbered with the task of providing valuable legal advice while ensuring compliance to the law. In-house counsels face this daunting task in a scenario where the activities of the company are inherently interconnected with the legal tasks at hand. To top it all, in-house attorneys were confronted with a myriad of potential exposures. These legal tangles include $307 of SOX; backdating stock options; new Rules of Federal Civil Procedures regarding electronically stored information; the McNulty Memorandum; Federal Rules of Evidence 502; liability to outside third parties; investigating boardroom leaks; and multi-jurisdictional practice and licensing.

2.3 Outside Counsels

Similarly, in-house lawyers are increasingly asking the law firms on hire to submit estimated budgets so they can trim down the costs of legal work especially when defending themselves against lawsuits. Companies have long asked for budgets from their lawyers for business transactions and for more conventional types of legal work. But with pressure mounting on them to report higher earnings, the in-house lawyers must now monitor their legal expenditures and they want their outside counsel to follow the suit as well.

The “2007 ACC/Serengeti managing outside counsel survey report” (www.serengetilaw.com) shows an average increase of 5.3% in the billing rates by outside counsel during the period from 2002 to 2007.

Billing issues have always been a war zone between the in-house and outside counsels. The popular “hourly billing” method comes with its own disadvantages. It often impacts legal costs negatively as it lays more emphasis on the delivery of the work rather than on the qualitative aspect which can eventually have an adverse effect on client relationship.

2.4 Some Key Challenges

The Legal Service Act 2007 of UK, permits legal out sourcing, is a boon t. Indian law graduates who can easily cope with England Legal work. The WTO in July 1998 noted a combined net trade balance for the U.S. and the U.K., the two largest exporters of legal services.

With associate lawyers in the US carrying a price tag of $225 per hour in their first year and $450 an hour in their eighth year. It was only a matter of time before law firms sought to outsource some of their countries like India, where the lawyers need to pay a price of 10 to 15% of that of US lawyers and a turnaround time of 24 hours for outsourced work. Legal Services Off shoring (LSO) which is an in-house legal departments or organizations offshore legal work from areas where it is costly to perform in United States or Europe is decreasing rapidly and on the other end in Indian services on high demand.

Criminal defense specialist and former Assistant United States Attorney Jay Ethington assure that “There is no difference between Indian and American advocates. The quality of work is the same”.

Outsourcing legal work to India is beneficial to western countries due to

3.0 What ails legal costs?

Despite taking all kinds of measures the ailment of over-expenditure continues in a company. Corporate entities, in-house counsels
and outside counsels, all seem to be caught in an escalating web of legal budget.

Budgets are the chief pointers to know whether in-house and outside counsels are thrashing out strategic issues and activity levels in a fruitful manner before litigation starts. They also act as parameters against which progress of the team and the expenses while handling complex legal questions and issues faced by it can be gauzed.

In a study conducted by Inside Counsel in its 17th Annual Survey of General Counsel (Published in the July 2006 issue of InsideCounsel), some 407 in-house counsels and 131 law firms felt that most of the friction between law firms and their in-house counsels can be attributed to the costs. Undeniably, when it comes to fiscal matters, the perceptions of the two groups could hardly be more divergent. 52% of in-house counsels identified ‘reduction of costs’ as the most significant thing law firms could do to develop their rapport with in-house counsel.

3.1 An interesting study

A study carried out by ACCA (now renamed ACC) has shown that despite taking measures, cost controls are failing to cut overall legal spending. The ACC survey shows that in-house counsel relies heavily on outside counsel in key areas such as litigation (69%), intellectual property (45%) and employment (45%). And as salaries for junior law firm associates continue to spiral upward, along with hourly billing rates for associates and partners alike, general counsel must manage with increasing legal fees.

The Way Out!

The only viable and durable solution on the horizon appears to be legal outsourcing which is more beneficial to the US and other western companies not only in the short run but also over a period of time.

4.0 A Few Issues!

Certain issues came up after the legal process outsourcing has begun in India and elsewhere in the world. Certain myths are also doing the rounds and it would be a mistake to attribute them to unbiased minds alone. In the light of newer issues let’s examine them as objectively as we can.

4.1 Outsourcing to India affects US employment

here is no valid data to prove that legal outsourcing to India will affect the employment in the US. According to a study by Forrester Research, the current annual value of legal outsourcing to India is at about US$80 million, but this can rise to US$4 billion, and would provide 79,000 jobs by 2015. This makes the present job absorption in this sphere-which is a mere 12,000-appear minuscule (http://www.blogsource.org/2005/11/india_could_abs.html). A study conducted earlier this year by Robert Half Legal (www.roberthalflegal.com) points that more stress is put on legal expertise in areas of compliance, regulatory issues, litigation, intellectual property and real estate. This increased demand will considerably outpace the rate of the entire legal outsourcing market.

These are mere forecasts. Even if such forecasts are completely believed, the amount of legal work that is off-shored will still remain 2% of that projected total and that too a major chunk of that constitute low-end work. Moreover it is widely reported that the population of the US is aging. At current productivity levels, it will need 5 percent or to put it simply, 15.6 million more workers by 2015 to maintain both its current ratio of workers to the total population and to sustain its present living standards. By 2015, despite current fears about job losses as a result of off-shoring, the US economy will certainly need more workers. Off-shoring is surely one way to meet that need. So all those doubting Johns who hold a pessimistic view on outsourcing legal services will be better off remembering that even after a substantial amount of work is outsourced from the US there is no threat to its economy.

4.2 Competence of Indian lawyers

The competence of the Indian lawyers can be judged not from the fact that quite a number of advocates are being produced annually but from the fact that they are the pillars, strong pillars at that, for the gigantic judicial system prevailing in India matched only by the US in its magnitude and dimensions. There is not a single legislation in the US that is not made in India barring a few that is not subject to intricate and in-depth interpretations by the lawyers and the judges. Many landmark judgments in India were and are possible due to the presence of the highly agile and competent lawyer force. The ease with which they can tackle any legal issue pertaining to any country where common law is prevailing is predictable and natural. The fact that the BPOs in India which are a runaway success are gradually paving way for the LPOs or at least LPOs are increasingly occupying the centre-stage in the outsourcing business in India with growing number of clients from the US and other countries speaks volumes about the ability and competence of the Indian lawyers.

4.3 Quality output

Apart from economical costs another important factor for the US or other western country to outsource their legal work is the quality output they are assured of in India. It is an admitted fact that in most cases quality takes precedence over many other factors like cost-effective services, abundant workforce etc.

4.4 Safety and Confidentiality

Nowhere else does the issue of safety and confidentiality come up so constantly as in the field of law. And, when it comes to the LPOs the task of providing quality services to their global clientele should be matched by stringent safety and confidentially measures in order to earn their confidence and goodwill. There are of course competent and professionally run LPOs in India that adhere to the safety and confidentiality norms.

5.0 Separating the wheat from the chaff!

There are a good number of LPOs in India now and a report says 1800 lawyers are presently engaged in various LPOs catering to the global clientele providing quality services. It becomes quite a task to choose the best from among them. However, with stringent objective criteria the task becomes easier and then it will not be a Herculean task to select the best LPO to whom any legal service can be entrusted in confidence. The parameters can be-

Quality output
Security and confidentiality
Cost-effectiveness
Easy accessibility
Hassle-free and client-friendly billing

Its website (www.acumenlpo.com) can be scanned for further details.

How to Get Legal Transcription Jobs and General Transcription Jobs

There are plenty of transcription job opportunities for you out there if you are willing enough to spend time and effort to put in the work. You cannot expect to earn a lot of money doing nothing. The good thing about doing general and legal transcription jobs from home is that you actually get to choose how much work to take in and what working hours you want to keep. This gives you time to spend with your family and to do other things that you want to do. If you are looking for a good way to earn a living from your home, doing transcription work could be just the work from home opportunity that you need.

You can get more information about how to get transcription jobs through the internet. In most cases, you would not have to have specialized training in order to get into transcription. There are, however, some types of transcription work that require knowledge of terminologies and understanding of processes with regard to the medical and the legal fields. General transcription work would normally have less restrictive requirements and will allow you to start getting jobs as soon as you pass your transcription test.

You have to be able to get connected with companies needing to outsource their transcription requirements if you are to start getting general and legal transcription jobs. It is not that easy to find which one of the millions of companies around the world are outsourcing their transcription jobs. While a job search online would yield you several options, it would be tricky to weed out the legitimate offers from scams on your own. Others who have been duped by these scams just chalk up these scams as one for experience. You do not necessarily have to go through this. There are resources that you can turn to in order to avoid these scams.

If a particular site promises you millions in earnings doing transcription work in exchange for a large sum of money you invest in their account, this should be a clear warning signal for you. There is no way through which you can earn millions in a snap doing general and legal transcription jobs. You do get compensated enough for the kind of work that you turn in when you do transcription work. The more satisfied clients you have, the more repeat businesses you will most probably get, and the more money you will earn. Find out how you can avoid these scams, how to get online medical transcription training and how to get transcription jobs without specialized training.

Website Legal Compliance – FTC Accelerates Crackdown On Fake News Sites

We’ve all seen headlines in search results like this one – “XYZ Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam”. And perhaps we actually believed there was objective reporting or unbiased commentary behind the headline. But after reading the web page, it was clear that the headline was just a clever way to catch your attention and lure you to a sales page with an aggressive sales pitch.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has seen these headlines too, and the FTC doesn’t think they’re clever at all. In fact, the FTC believes they constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, as indicated by the FTC’s accelerated crackdown on affiliates of a popular diet drink with aggressive weight loss claims.

Modus Operandi

The modus operandi of these sites was to start with attention grabbing headlines such as the one listed above and these additional ones – “News 6 News Alerts,” “Health News Health Alerts,” or “Health 5 Beat Health News.”

The sites presented what appeared to be a skeptical commentator who raises the question of whether the diet drink is really effective. The commentator appeared to be objective; however, after a few paragraphs the commentator would conclude that use of the diet drink would result in a 25-pound weight loss in 4 weeks – all this without changing diet or exercise according to the FTC.

The prices for the supplement ranged between $70 and $100.

The FTC’s Claims

When the FTC originally initiated law suits against these sites, Charles Harwood, Deputy Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection stated: “We are alleging that nearly everything about these Web sites is false and deceptive”. In addition, the FTC pointed out that the defendants aggressively promoted the deceptive ads by spending millions of dollars for placement on high volume websites resulting in millions of views by consumers and substantial sales.

Specifically, the FTC contended that the offending sites –

* failed to disclose their material relationships involving the payment of affiliate commissions with the merchants of the products;

* failed to produce independent tests to support the claims made prior to public dissemination;

* included a section of “consumer comments” that were completely fabricated;

* used infringing logos of reputable media outlets such as ABC, Fox News, CNN and Consumer Reports to give the false impression of credibility; and

* misappropriated the image of a French reporter for use on the sites.

The Settlements

The cases brought by the FTC were against six affiliates of the merchant that manufactured and supplied the weight loss supplement.

In the settlements, the defendants agreed that they will permanently cease their allegedly deceptive practice of using fake news websites. In addition, the settlements require that the defendants cease making deceptive claims about their other products, including work-at-home schemes and penny auctions which most of them promoted.

The big hammer in the settlements included fines in an aggregate amount which represented the affiliate commissions the defendants received through their fake news sites.

These settlement results clearly indicate that the FTC aggressively pursued every dollar they could under the circumstances (the final amounts left most of them with few real assets, if any):

* one defendant’s $2.5 million judgment was suspended when he pays $280,000 and records a $39,500 lien on his home;

* another defendant’s fine of $204,000 was suspended pending the payment of $13,000 plus the proceeds from the sale of a BMW automobile, and

* still another defendant was suspended pending the payment of almost $80,000 over a 3 year period.

Conclusion

The take-aways from these cases include –

* fake news sites are virtually guaranteed to get you sued by the FTC,

* ditto for fake testimonials or user comments,

* diet supplements of any kind are high on the FTC’s radar screen for regulatory scrutiny,

* the FTC is serious about enforcing its guidelines that affiliates are required to conspicuously disclose the fact that they are paid commissions for endorsements, and

* consistent with the FTC’s long-standing policy, advertising claims should be substantiated prior to public dissemination.

The FTC continues to make it absolutely clear that the days of the “Wild, Wild West” on the Internet, when it was open season on deceptive marketing practices, is clearly over for good.

This article is provided for educational and informative purposes only. This information does not constitute legal advice, and should not be construed as such.