The American Bar Association's GPSOLO magazine focuses on the needs of the majority of the ABA's members, namely, attorneys at small firms, general practitioners, and solo lawyers. In the November/December issue, veteran appellate lawyer and multiple book author William L. Pfeifer Jr.* weighs in with an informative article on "Privacy and Legal Outsourcing." Surveying various U.S. ethical obligations, Pfeifer points out that attorneys who would like to outsource work to non-lawyers, whether on-shore or off-shore, should do more than conduct a simple internet search for the least expensive provider. They need to "consider the credentials of the provider, the nature of the services, how client information will be protected, and the legal and ethical rules that will apply in the jurisdiction where the work is performed."
Pfeifer goes on to explain why many U.S. lawyers continue to outsource work to India. In addition to the well-known fact that "outsourcing overseas has a significant advantage when it comes to price," and that "India in particular is a popular source of legal outsourcing services because of its citizens’ advanced English skills and the similarity of its legal system to ours," another reason is the recent changes in India's privacy laws:
"India recently enacted new privacy laws imposing both civil liability and criminal punishment for certain privacy violations. Legal outsourcing providers can be subject to civil liability for failing to use reasonable security practices and procedures when handling sensitive personal data or information if their failure results in harm to any person. It is also now a crime in India for a person to disclose sensitive personal information without the consent of the person or in breach of a contract with the knowledge or intent that the disclosure would cause wrongful gain or loss. This increased level of liability would seem to satisfy the concerns raised in the ABA Comments over the laws of the jurisdiction where the outsourced work is being performed."
Pfeifer warns, however, that "counsel still should ensure that proper data security procedures are followed and that the services are conducted in a competent manner." On that front, he conveniently mentions one Indian LPO provider that stands out favorably (and we're glad, since it's ours):
"Unlike some outsourcing services that are entirely foreign corporations, SDD Global Solutions is managed by the law firm of SmithDehn LLP. Many law firms hire SDD Global Solutions because their processes and procedures are being overseen by a U.S.-based international law firm. Vidya Devaiah, managing director of SDD Global Solutions, recommends that 'The main considerations that an attorney should keep in mind when hiring an outsourcing provider are the hiring policies and training policies of the firm. This will help ensure quality work product. If the concern is about data security on a large scale, then it is often best to pay a site visit to the firm and assess the security measures firsthand.' Devaiah says SDD Global Solutions’ office is secured, with restricted access only through the use of an electronic swipe card, and each employee has access only to certain areas. Also, employees sometimes access data from the client’s servers and do not store that data on their own computers. In addition to such security measures, Devaiah says that 'security, for the most part, lies with the people.' For this reason, SDD Global Solutions is very selective in its hiring process and subjects every candidate to an extensive background check before offering employment."