India Flies

(James Law's Cybertecture Egg for Mumbai)

India is traditionally protectionist towards its legal profession. Foreign law firms aren't permitted and have been rebuffed when they tried to enter the market. Moreover, government moves to liberalising the legal market have stalled.

Two areas in the Indian legal market are growing: law firms and LPOs.

Indian law firms are growing and spreading. reports of new firms starting as breakaways from more established firms and even setting up satellites in Singapore. For example, a new firm, Tatva Legal is being formed from 20 to 30 lawyers splitting from Dua Associates. It will have offices in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. It expects to grow to around 60 lawyers specialising in corporate and M&A. (By comparison Dua had about 300 lawyers.)

The other part of the Indian success story is in legal process outsourcing. For example, see Rainmaker, an Indian legal newsletter, for stories on LPOs and the UK and US law firms that are outsourcing their back office operations to them. What is also of interest is the personnel who are moving from the UK and US to work in LPOs. But LPOs are not exclusive to law firms. Companies are outsourcing their work too. Rio Tinto is outsourcing some of its inhouse legal work to CPA Global. CPA, interestingly, was originally set up by UK patent attorneys in 1969, and now combines intellectual property services and legal process outsourcing.

LPOs are becoming part of the multidisciplinary movement. reports an LPO joint venture between a Kolkata law firm, Khaitan & Partners, and a US health insurance and business process provider, Fox Insurance Company in New York. The LPO and BPO would work together specializing in US healthcare law. The BPO already has 150 people working in it and the LPO is expected to employ around 35 lawyers.

As restricted as it is, the Indian legal market already displays remarkable entrepreneurialism far ahead of the UK legal market. Just as it has in the IT market. It will be interesting to observe how the UK market responds when alternative business structures take off in 2011.