NOIDA, India — As an assistant attorney general for New York State, Christopher Wheeler used to spend most of his time arguing in courtrooms in New York City.
Today, he works in a sprawling, unfinished planned suburb of New Delhi, where office buildings are sprouting from empty lots and dirt roads are fringed with fresh juice stalls and construction rubble. At Pangea3, a legal outsourcing firm, Mr. Wheeler manages a team of 110 Indian lawyers who do the grunt work traditionally assigned to young lawyers in the United States — at a fraction of the cost.
India’s legal outsourcing industry has grown in recent years from an experimental endeavor to a small but mainstream part of the global business of law. Cash-conscious Wall Street banks, mining giants, insurance firms and industrial conglomerates are hiring lawyers in India for document review, due diligence, contract management and more.
Now, to win new clients and take on more sophisticated work, legal outsourcing firms in India are actively recruiting experienced lawyers from the West. And American and British lawyers — who might once have turned up their noses at the idea of moving to India, or harbored an outright hostility to outsourcing legal work in principle — are re-evaluating the sector.
The number of legal outsourcing companies in India has mushroomed to more than 140 at the end of 2009, from 40 in 2005, according to Valuenotes, a consulting firm in Pune, India. Revenue at India’s legal outsourcing firms is expected to grow to $440 million this year, up 38 percent from 2008, and should surpass $1 billion by 2014, Valuenotes estimates.
“This is not a blip, this is a big historical movement,” said David B. Wilkins, director of Harvard Law School’s program on the legal profession.