Some paralegals aren't concerned about outsourcing. "Most of the lawyers I’ve worked with would never trust their work to someone they don’t know very well and trust (almost) implicitly," Catherine McKenzie, a senior paralegal from Vero Beach, FL, told "Legal Assistant Today." But many paralegals realize law firms are outsourcing and the trend has grown substantially in recent years, which raises questions about the future of the industry.
Concerns About Outsourcing
Outsourcing raises concerns about confidentiality, privacy, liability and the unauthorized practice of law, says the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. And some view these issues as especially pressing when legal work is outsourced overseas. The Florida Bar Ethics Department says the primary concern in the practice of law is protecting the public from incompetent, unethical and irresponsible representation. It encourages attorneys to be mindful of their legal obligations but said as long as firms provide proper supervision, they have the right to outsource work to whomever they like. There isn't an ethical distinction between a domestic or foreign service provider.
Although outsourcing presents challenges, and sometimes controversy, it also saves firms money, especially when the work is done overseas. Many attorneys view India as a preferred source of legal labor. A study from the University of California at Berkeley found U.S. firms paid legal assistants and paralegals working in India between $6 and $8 per hour, about one-third the cost for a paralegal in the U.S.
Law firms' drive to cut expenses has also created more opportunities for freelance paralegals in the U.S. Outsourcing in the U.S. costs more than contracting work to foreign service providers, but some firms are more comfortable with this option. And, it is still much cheaper than having a full-time employee since a firm doesn't have to pay for training, benefits, taxes or the additional office space.
Better Opportunities for In-house Paralegals
Considering the savings, attorneys aren't likely to stop outsourcing. Tara Kim Eberhart, a paralegal in DC, said rapidly rising legal fees will likely increase demand for outsourcing. But many in the industry expect law firms to primarily outsource low-level tasks. Pennsylvania paralegal Laura Leonard told "Legal Assistant Today" that outsourcing may be more of a benefit than a concern. The outsourcing of more mundane tasks hopefully will give paralegals the opportunity to do more substantive work, she said.
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Position Statement on the Outsourcing of Paralegal Duties to Foreign Countries
- Paralegal Today: Outsourcing Outlook
- Law Crossing: Independant Paralegals Sought by Legal Firms on Contract Basis
- Florida Bar: Informational Packet: Outsourcing Paralegal Work
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images