Saturday, October 3, 2009

Law Jobs Outsourced to India

Pascal Lieblich spent six years working for New York firms before moving to India a year ago to become the head of document review at Clutch Group, a legal outsourcing firm.

A born globetrotter, Lieblich, 38, is from Belgium but graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's law school in 2001. He also holds a certificate in public policy and management from Penn's Wharton School of business.

The Am Law Daily recently spoke with Lieblich by phone from his current hometown, Bangalore, about the transition and the adjustments he's made, both culturally and professionally.

Why did you move to India?

I got tired of spending time alone in my office doing legal research and drafting memos and motions. I was looking for a challenge and I've always enjoyed traveling. While traveling across Southeast Asia, I met a couple of Indian attorneys who were working in the legal process outsourcing industry. I'd heard about it before, but they told me more about the type of work people were doing here.

Is that when you started thinking about moving?

Yes. I decided to put my résumé out there to see if there was any interest. Clutch Group had one of the best offers, so I decided to accept theirs. What I really like about LPOs [legal process outsourcing] is the amalgamation between law and technology, one of which I enjoy professionally and the other as a hobby.

What has been the biggest adjustment?

Culture. Most decisions here, both professional and personal, are made at the family level. And that's very different from what we're used to in the West. It was somewhat shocking to me.

How so?

Recently we were working on this big project and needed people to work late at night. Many of the unmarried women who work for us live in hostels, which are basically hotels where people live but are supervised. They have to be home by 10 o'clock, and these are 25-to-30-year-old attorneys. So I was asked to draft a letter asking the hostel for permission to allow these women to work late.

How has your workload changed since moving to India?

In New York I was focusing more on legal research and pleadings, and now I'm spending more time managing people and getting document review projects going and completing them successfully. I have been working long hours, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing. If I have a long weekend, I like to get away to Kerala.

There's been a lot of talk about the quality of legal work coming out of India. Do you think it meets U.S. standards?

Absolutely. We probably spend more time checking the quality of our work because we know people are looking at it closely. I worked in New York law firms, so I know what matters to litigators and make sure we closely follow their guidelines. [Note: Clutch Group says that all new hires must pass the "Enron" test: public documents in the case are uploaded to a software platform for review by prospective employees.]

Are most of your hires from Indian law schools?

Yes. We're one of the top LPOs, so we have close contacts with the top law schools and only hire the most qualified people. Every year there are 80,000 new attorneys that join the legal market here, so there's a tremendous pool of qualified people.

How many foreign lawyers would you estimate are working at Indian LPOs?

A lot, and most of the ones I've met are from the U.S. Several are from top schools and others are from second-tier schools. There are so many opportunities here for such a wide range [of individuals]. The U.S. and India share a common law background, which makes it easier for American attorneys to work here.

Would you encourage lawyers in the U.S. to pursue opportunities in India?

I would recommend it to any attorney looking for an exciting challenge. We work with top law firms and banks and handle big cases. I spend more time talking with people in the U.S. than when I was actually in the U.S. For those who want to combine a global experience with practicing law, this is the perfect combination.

All interviews are condensed and edited for grammar, clarity, and style.

This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on

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