– Tuba Naseer (EEP-GMP 2018)
The alternative legal service (ALSP) industry has continued to mature since its inception. We can say that it’s a bubble that is not likely to burst. Indian legal professionals are not only proving their worth in this sector, but their high- quality work product is being recognized and acknowledged by law firms and corporate legal departments across the globe. Yes, it’s true, attorneys sitting in India are catering to the requirements of clients based out of multiple geographies.
Legal process outsourcing started as back-end work with the primary intent of providing cost benefits to global corporations and some law firms. However, as the high quality of work delivered has proven itself over time, the industry has since formed a niche for itself, having evolved into an established category known as the alternative legal services (ALSP) market. Legal outsourcing within the ALSP market has shown an upward trend in the recent past. The market share has shown a steep growth from 3 billion USD in 2016 to 6 billion USD in 2017 – as per 2017 Alternative Legal Service Providers, Thomson Reuters, Oxford Said Business School and Georgetown Law Centre for the Study of the Legal Profession.
Apart from India, the United States and Ireland, the work is now gradually spreading into different geographies, like the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa. But, the expansion is at a slower pace in comparison to India due to scalability constraints.
Today, the industry has moved past its simple beginnings to focus on higher- end work such as chronology compilation, second-level review, witness kit preparation, audio/video review, regulatory and compliance preparation, automated contract due diligence, and contract repapering. Not just this, legal professionals employed by ALSPs are also assisting their clients during trials with fact finding -they deep dive into a client’s database and identify key evidence that helps the client to pursue claims and respond to allegations.
The legal professionals who handle these large- scale projects for clients develop excellent leadership and technical skills that allow them to pursue a non-traditional, yet extremely rewarding, career. Legal professionals associated with ALSPs are also given opportunities to receive in-depth, hands-on training from the senior attorneys within their company.
Alternative legal service providers have equipped and trained their professionals to cater to the needs of a global clientele. The organization I am associated with, for instance, has teams of expert legal professionals based in Eagan, Minnesota, Dallas, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Gydnia. Its India facility, alone, employs about 1000 legal professionals. While we do not provide legal advice, our teams have a similar structure to law firms in the U.S. and U.K., and we provide legal services while under the supervision of our clients.
Alternative legal services providers typically have teams equipped to assist with the following:
– Litigation Solutions
This team assists clients with current/anticipated litigation and investigations (internal or regulatory). The major services provided are ESI consulting, document review (including the review of audio and video files), fact-finding, privilege review, privilege log preparation, and chronology development.
– eDiscovery Services
With advances in technology, the amount of electronic data is continually increasing, pressuring litigation attorneys to sift through more data with less time. Legal services providers can step in to provide legal assistance in combination with technical expertise. In fact, some ALSPs have developed their own eDiscovery platforms to provide end-to-end services to clients, ranging from the collection of electronic data to the production of documents in court.
These eDiscovery platforms provide features such as clustering and concept searching. In turn, these ALSP professionals are trained on these technologies to cater to client needs.
– Regulatory Change Management
The ALSP professionals on this kind of team are proficient in the scope of US and UK regulations, and assist clients in identifying the relevant laws that the clients need to comply with in certain jurisdictions. These teams conduct mapping exercises to identify gaps in internal controls and policies, and submit findings or send triggers to the client’s relevant departments. This team also conducts research for its clients on relevant laws and compliance guidelines.
– Contract Management
Whether it’s harmonizing templates, developing playbooks, drafting a new contract and negotiating its terms and conditions with the counterparty, and sending final versions of the contract approval and signature – the professionals on this team assist the client in every phase of contract lifecycle. Teams may also leverage leading contract automation and extraction technology to provide greater speed and efficiencies.
Often ALSP professionals are also empowered to provide additional services based on a client’s playbook. These include:
- Assignment and transfer
- Obligation Management
- Auditing and Reporting
- Contract remediation
- Mergers and Acquisition Due Diligence
– Re-documentation and repapering
Finally, some niche ALSPs provide a new type of solutions to help financial services, clients, to manage their ever-growing regulatory deadlines. Re-documentation and re-papering solutions combine the expertise of financial services and legal professionals to help global banks meet new regulatory requirements, such as MiFID II, SFTR, and Initial Margin reform. These solutions are a specialized version of contract management that requires program management, automated contract management technology, and domain expertise to repaper thousands of trade agreements within strict deadlines.
Leading ALSPs provide experienced senior legal professionals to manage teams and serve as the client relationship manager. They leverage project management skills to ensure that projects are cost – effective for the clients without compromising quality.
These project managers also assist with scoping and budgeting. They ensure that client expectations are met and the projects are delivered on time.
This industry has taken a giant leap forward and is attracting the attention of legal professionals who are considering their full range of career options in countries like India.
These professionals are sometimes invited by clients to provide onsite assistance – as a type of secondment, often in the US and UK – which shows the value and trust ALSP professionals have been developing. Furthermore, professionals with experience working at ALSPs have rewarding career trajectories within the legal industry. Many will continue to achieve success and upwards progression within their own company by taking on added leadership responsibilities. Some are recruited by various Indian law firms and companies as in-house counsel.
As such, it is an increasingly viable career option for Indian lawyers who are looking to gain additional exposure and to explore a diverse range of opportunities.