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Home > BPO > Indian > Team Builder
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Global opportunities for Indian lawyers Global opportunities for Indian lawyers
 
LPOs or legal process outsourcing companies provide a global platform to fresh law graduates with vast international exposure to hone their talents

 (3 Votes)

Thursday, December 20, 2007: 
When Fortune 500 multinationals approach Indian law firms they

The Internet revolution hit the Indian legal industry, causing a dramatic evolution in the past few years. Rapid globalisation of the Indian economy and the changes that IP networks/bandwidths have brought about, have had a significant impact on the entire legal profession by globalising it literally, and as a result, career opportunities available to law students today are truly immense.

Earlier, law graduates faced a standard set of career choices. They could work for a family-run law firm, join an independent counsel or opt to be part of the corporate world as in-house legal counsel focused on India centric legal practices. Times have certainly changed! If you graduated this year from India’s top law schools – National Law School, Bangalore, Government Law College, Bombay, Faculty of Law, Delhi, Symbiosis, Pune, ILS, Pune, and NUJS Calcutta, among others -- you are facing a very new choice -- LPOs or legal process outsourcing companies providing legal services globally to global clients in addition to the traditional ones. And since most people fear change and the unknown, this is a daunting choice.

Interestingly, all law firms are LPOs. Traditional India based law firms outsource Indian legal services to Indian or non-India based clients who prefer not to handle their Indian legal matters internally within their organisations. The new choice that people call LPO today, simply refers to companies that provide legal services to non-India based companies and law firms (mainly American and European corporates) about legal matters that do not relate to India at all but instead relate to everything outside India. The irony is that both are technically "legal process outsourcers"; it is just that the term LPO has come into currency only recently.

When you work for an Indian law firm servicing some of the largest global multinationals, you certainly get the best exposure that you could possibly ask for in terms of a world class client base. However, in most cases, the transactions you are seeing from those clients are likely limited to India centric transactions -- setting up a subsidiary in India, availing tax holidays and other benefits for operations in India, setting up a greenfield project in India, acquiring or selling a company to or from an Indian company, project finance transactions in India or to the extent impacted by Indian laws and regulations, financial instruments (bonds, hedging transactions, loans, etc) to the extent impacted by Indian laws or regulations. The truth is that the scope of these India centric transactions for Fortune 500 multinationals is not nearly as broad as the scope of transactions that are occurring globally.

Compare this with the work done at an LPO where the virtual office environment created by the Internet enables the work done at an LPO to be truly global in scope and nature. At high-end LPOs, the exposure is global because the lawyers working at these LPOs are servicing multinational in-house counsels and law firms in connection with their global practice. These Indian attorneys are often competing with and/or delivering services to international lawyers. In short, working at a top notch LPO raises the bar and prepares an Indian lawyer to be a global lawyer. The world’s largest non-Indian headquartered multinationals whether it be GE, Microsoft, Boeing, Google, or Goldman Sachs, are typically not approaching Indian law firms for transactions or activity that are not India centric. But they are giving their global work to the LPOs, in the process providing lawyers at LPOs phenomenal exposure and growth prospects.

As a result, any lawyer working in an Indian law firm is only likely to see India centric transactions and is not likely to gain exposure to transactions that are not in some way connected to India, while lawyers working at LPOs are likely to see transactions with global scope. Why does this matter? Why does this substantively limit an Indian lawyer’s experience and exposure from a substantive standpoint?

A large number of laws and regulations in India materially impact the nature of transactions that take place in India. Indian laws, rules and regulations, in many cases, prohibit or provide very little flexibility from a structuring perspective and therefore Indian lawyers typically are not aware or do not have an opportunity to experience global transactions. As India moves closer to a primary role as a hub for MNCs to conduct business worldwide, a broad exposure to international transactions such as review of international indentures and bond documents issued by American and European companies, hedging transactions, bridge loans (private equity) and in-kind equity contributions will serve lawyers well.

To give an example, the structure of retaining personnel in India as employees versus contractors is very different from that of other countries. Companies in India have a significant amount of flexibility to retain personnel as contractors in India versus employees, enabling employees to manage their personal income tax liabilities in a number of different ways. Other countries are much stricter and limit this flexibility. Indian lawyers with exposure to the rules and regulations of other countries will be in a much better position to advise MNCs globally.

Customer contracts (MSAs, EPCs, Marketing and Distribution Agreements), that large MNCs enter into globally is yet another example of increased exposure to lawyers working in an LPO. Since these agreements often relate to multiple jurisdictions with varying service levels, product transfer arrangements, standards of care, party relationships, varying Force Majeure risk across different countries and local jurisdictions in Europe and the United States, the level of sophistication and complex nature of the agreements can often greatly exceed that of a traditional India focused document.

The exposure at an LPO also varies across industries. You could be reviewing an MSA on a given day and a financial indenture on another. Thus, if one wants to move from an LPO to an Indian law firm or even an international law firm, the transition is extremely easy due to the wide exposure gained.

In a traditional law firm, most law graduates learn by getting thrown into a transaction with minimal or no guidance. From a training and learning perspective, LPOs, unlike law firms and in-house legal departments, have a formal and institutionalised training programme for fresh graduates. This ensures that the vagaries associated with working for different partners in a law firm are eliminated and every law graduate has an equal opportunity to learn and absorb legal concepts. This professional approach to continuing legal education has found many takers from among new graduates from top law schools and even lateral recruits from law firms.

Again, lawyers in India have never had an opportunity to participate in growth stories; mainly because in-house lawyers are treated as a support function and law firms tend to be very closely held. Working with some high-end LPOs ensures that Indian lawyers get an opportunity to participate in the commercial success of the organisation, by way of stock option plans. LPOs, like software companies tend to have a very transparent and merit based approval system, which ensures that good lawyers are always rewarded, both monetarily (including substantial stock options) as well as in terms of responsibilities.

LPOs thus, present an excellent career opportunity for lawyers in India. The experience is truly global. The environment is corporate and entrepreneurial. The learning is guided and focused. And the reward system is purely merit based.

When Fortune 500 multinationals approach Indian law firms they


 (3 Votes)


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