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.

Identity Theft Law – The Legal Implications and Consequences of Identity Fraud

Identity Fraud is a serious offense and identity fraud law has been enacted in the United States of America to curb this growing menace. Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies became aware of the growing incidence of identity theft and passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (ITADA) in 1998 to bring identity thieves to justice and protect the victim.

More often than not identity fraud involves online transactions and the culprit is anonymous and faceless. The process of tracing the culprit is therefore tedious and difficult but not impossible. With increasing use of the internet in day-to-day activities there has been a proportional increase in the number of identity fraud cases.

Tracking down the criminal requires coordination between various federal organizations like the FTC, postal inspection service, United States secret service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and the credit report agency

Identity fraud law vests the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the task of receiving complaints from victims of identity theft and providing them the necessary information. The FTC processes the complaint and then refers it to an appropriate authority for further necessary action.

ITADA passed by the United States Senate in 1998 identified identity thefts associated with mortgage, credit card, loans, services and commodities as punishable. With the complexity of identity thefts increasing, the Senate amended the ITADA in 2003.

The ITADA in its amended form makes it illegal for any individual to be knowingly in possession of another person’s identity without lawful authority. If the identity is used to commit, aid or abet any activity that is a violation of Federal law it is a serious federal crime and appropriate legal measures will be initiated.

The ITADA recognizes identity fraud as a serious felony and if guilt is proved in a court of law the culprit could serve up to thirty years in prison in addition to penalties.

California and Wisconsin are two states in the USA that have created an office of privacy protection entrusted with the responsibility of educating citizens about avoiding identity theft and assisting them to cope with and recover from an identity fraud.

California also enacted a data breach notification law that was later emulated by many states. This law stipulates that a company must notify all its customers of any breach of data that is identified.

Currently most states in the United States have enacted special laws to fight identity theft. Most states also have a special section within the Attorney General’s office that deals exclusively with identity theft.

You should intimate the FTC immediately after coming to know about identity theft. You can do this through email or calling up their toll free number or making a personal visit to the local FTC office. You should also inform the credit reporting agency and local police department.

Identity fraud law is relatively new and amendments will be made as conmen devise newer ways of swindling money. Being well informed and prevention is the best way to fight identity fraud.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Content and How it is Measured

A person’s Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC, is the percentage of alcohol present in your body. The higher your BAC, the more alcohol you have in your system. The legal limit in the United States is .08% alcohol. Your BAC is dependent on a variety of factors, including your sex, your weight, the speed of your metabolism, your medications, health conditions you may have, how much food you have consumed throughout the day, and of course, how many alcoholic drinks you have had.

So how exactly is your BAC measured? Law enforcement officers use a variety of different measures and tests to determine if you are over the legal limit and thus not legally allowed to drive. If you are ever pulled over by a law enforcement officer under the suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated, the officer will probably first subject you to a series of questions about your previous activity. Where are you coming from? Have you been drinking? How many drinks have you had tonight? If after this series of questions, the officer still suspects that you may be over the legal limit, he or she will probably subject you to a combination of field sobriety tests. Examples of these tests include a walk and turn, a one legged stand, and a horizontal gaze test. If you fail one or more of these tests, the officer has cause to believe that you are too intoxicated to drive and may take you into custody and ask you to submit to other testing.

The most common test to determine your BAC is the breathanalyzer. This machine uses infrared light to determine how much alcohol is present in your body as you breathe into the machine. Since the machine cannot determine factors such as your metabolism rate and food consumption, the machine relies on a conversion factor to determine your BAC. Therefore, the number it provides is not 100% accurate, but instead a close estimate.

A much more accurate BAC test is the BAC blood test. With this test, a sample of blood is taken and the amount of alcohol present in the body is directly measured. These tests are very accurate because they need no conversion factor to estimate your BAC. However, even with their high level of accuracy, problems can occur either when the test is administered or as the sample is transported and handled.

If you are ever charged with a DUI, you should be familiar with BAC tests and how they work. For more information about BAC tests and their potential inaccuracies, visit the website of Rhode Island DUI lawyer James Powderly.