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ABA Gives Thumbs Up to Legal Outsourcing

The American Bar Association has waded into the debate over legal outsourcing with an ethics opinion blessing the outsourcing trend as “a salutary one for our globalized economy.”
A growing number of legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies have sprouted up in recent years to offer the services of lawyers abroad to handle the most labor-intensive aspects of U.S. legal matters, especially document review in large-scale litigation. India has been the most popular destination for legal outsourcing because it has a common-law system and English is widely spoken.

Companies operating there have hailed the advisory by the ABA's ethics committee as a major step forward for their nascent industry.

"Several of us were waiting for this," said Ram Vasudevan, the chief executive officer of New York-based Quislex, which has 170 lawyers in Hyderabad, India. "This lays out the framework for how to do this."

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The Biggest In-House Employers

The top 200 corporate law departments in U.S. companies employed ~27,700 lawyers in 2006 (InsideCounsel).

The largest corporate law departments in U.S. companies in 2006 were:

  • Citigroup (1,500 lawyers)
  • GE (~1,200 lawyers)
The next three largest were insurance companies:
  • Liberty Mutual (~775 lawyers)
  • State Farm (~720 lawyers)
  • Allstate (~700 lawyers)
  • Exxon was sixth, with 600 lawyers
The largest corporate law departments have been growing over the past decade, but at a slower pace than the largest corporate law firms.

  • In 1997, the 200 largest law departments had a total of ~19,400 lawyers, and thus grew by a total of ~8,300 over nine years, for an average annual growth rate of 4.8%.
  • In 1997, the AmLaw 100 had a total of ~42,600 lawyers, and in 2006 the AmLaw 100 had a total of ~70,100 lawyers (AmLaw), and thus grew by a total of ~27,500 lawyers over nine years, for an average annual growth rate of 7.2%.
  • Put differently, in 1997, the AmLaw 100 had 2.2x as many lawyers in it as the 200 largest corporate departments; by 2006, the AmLaw 100 had 2.5x as many lawyers in its as the 200 largest departments.
Courtesy of: Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession.
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China’s Growing In-House Market

With China thrust front and center in the midst of extensive media coverage, I wondered. What does the in-house legal marketplace in China look like? And are there viable job opportunities for U.S.-trained lawyers?

The in-house legal marketplace – just like many other industries in China – has undergone an incredible transformation in the last decade. Where less than ten years ago in-house lawyers in China were almost nonexistent, as most legal work was handled by law firms, today companies are growing their in-house legal ranks at an unprecedented rate.

The leader of the pack is Alibaba – the world's largest online B2B marketplace. With 14 lawyers among its 2,000-plus employees, and plans to add at least another 6 in-house counsels, including a new chief legal officer, the company is at the forefront of this hot in-house hiring trend.

Today, companies in China – both domestic and multinational – are no longer rushing to costly international law firms for help every time a question comes up. Increasingly, they're grooming their own legal team to compete in the heated China market.

Bilingual American lawyers with international law firm experience are the hot tickets for U.S. companies conducting business in China. That said, American corporations are not the only ones that are seeking American talent, especially for top legal jobs.

Certain Chinese companies prefer the rigor and specificity of American legal training, and are increasingly looking to hire U.S. trained attorneys. One of the draw: U.S-trained lawyers tend to have a greater familiarity with the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance reforms – that's a skill that Chinese companies – with an eye to an overseas stock market listing need.

With the growing uncertainty of the domestic legal market, a number of U.S. attorneys have made the in-house leap to China. Are you ready to make your move?

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The 25 Greatest Legal Movies

Summer time is usually a good time to lounge somewhere and enjoy a good book…or in this case perhaps just a great movie. Let’s make that a legal movie.
Perhaps it was from one of those movies that you watched as a kid that you decided to become a lawyer. Who did not want to emulate the great Atticus Finch?

Hollywood has opened up the legal world to our eyes in a series of provocative, intense, and sometimes downright heart wrenching movies.

From the incisive Henry Drummond and the droll Mr. Lincoln to the callow Danny Kaffee and the regal Atticus Finch, lawyers have provided some of Hollywood’s most memorable cinematic heroes and some of its most honorable and thoughtful films.

Earlier this year, the ABA Journal asked 12 prominent lawyers who teach film or are connected to the business to choose what they regard as the best movies ever made about lawyers and the law.

Together these films represent 31 Oscar wins and another 85 nominations as befits the best work of some of the greatest actors, writers and directors of their time.

So quiet, please. A rap of the gavel, a pull of the curtain, and ‘Hear ye! Hear ye!’ for the 25 greatest law films ever made (in alphabetical order):

  • 12 Angry Men
  • A Civil Action
  • A Few Good Men
  • A Man for All Seasons
  • Amistad
  • Anatomy of a Murder
  • And Justice for All
  • Breaker Morant
  • Chicago
  • Compulsion
  • Erin Brockovich
  • In the Name of the Father
  • Inherit the Wind
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • My Cousin Vinny
  • Philadelphia
  • Presumed Innocent
  • Reversal of Fortune
  • The Paper Chase
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Verdict, The
  • Witness for the Prosecution
  • Young Mr. Lincoln

Which one is you favorite legal flick of all times?

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I Want to Take My Practice Overseas: Where Do I Start?

Watching the world perform at the Olympic games in Beijing, have you caught the international travel fever?

If you have, then you are no alone. The idea of living and practicing law overseas has become very popular. However, the actual steps of making your international dream into a reality often appear to be impractical and difficult.

The good news is that it has become increasingly easy, as well as common, for lawyers to be licensed to practice in foreign jurisdictions.

So, where do you start?

Permission To Work.

The first thing you need to determine when considering a job abroad is whether you can work legally here, and the steps you need to take to obtain working permission.

For the purpose of this post, I will not provide an exhaustive review of the requirements in a large number of jurisdictions. I will focus on the admissions process for American lawyers in England, Australia, and Hong Kong, where a candidate in these jurisdictions does not face a language barrier, and the process is simplified for a lawyer with prior training in common law.

Admission in England.

There can be little doubt that, for the American lawyer, the process of becoming licensed in England is far easier than the transfer license process for any other jurisdiction. This is true for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important, and most obvious, is language.

Second, England is a common law jurisdiction; hence English lawyers approach problems in a fashion similar to their American counterparts. Third, the process and requirements are far from onerous. That being said, however, it is essential to remember that England has a distinctly different legal system. One of the most notable differences is that the legal profession is divided into solicitors and barristers.

Solicitors: The solicitors are, by far, the larger of the two professional groups. They do almost everything that we normally associate with ‘‘lawyer’s work’’ except in-court advocacy in front of the higher courts and the presentation of appellate cases. Solicitors and barristers are not permitted to work together as a law firm. Solicitors’ offices and barristers’ chambers are always completely separate and distinct. Barristers are not hired by the client. The client retains a solicitor and when the services of a barrister are necessary, the solicitor retains a barrister to argue the case.

Barristers: Transfer admission as a barrister is done through the Bar Council. However, at the practical level, given the ethical constraints of the barrister’s profession and the serious difficulties of establishing a practice, it would be almost pointless for an American lawyer to obtain a professional qualification as a barrister unless he or she intends to relocate to England and practice full time as a barrister.

The Law Society of England and Wales oversees the admission of overseas lawyers wishing to become solicitors. Those of us who have endured the complexities of a state bar admission process and the burdensome details of the National Board of Law Examiners forms will be pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of applying for admission to the law society.

Admission as a Solicitor follows a three-step process:

Step 1.

The first step, making an application, is quite straightforward. The law society has a short form, consisting of 24 questions, providing contact details, educational background, professional experience, contact details for three professional references, copies of college and law school diplomas, and state law license. In this process, you must satisfy the society that:
  • you have graduated from law school;
  • you hold a license to practice law;
  • you have actively practiced law for at least two years;
  • you have not been in bankruptcy or convicted of a crime; and
  • you have not previously been disbarred or subject to professional discipline.

Step 2.

If you meet the criteria, you will receive a certificate of eligibility and a letter telling you which examinations you must pass. The second, and more burdensome, step in the process is the admission examinations. If you went to law school in a common law jurisdiction and speak English fluently, you will be required to take three examinations:
  • Property
  • Litigation (civil or criminal procedure)
  • Professional Conduct and Solicitor’s Accounts
These examinations do not come close to the difficulty of an American bar examination. That said, you will not pass these examinations without any preparation. There are four schools that provide short courses (about 60 hours) designed specifically to prepare applicants for these examinations, and one school that provides correspondence courses. Alternatively, you can elect to purchase the written materials, which include prior examination questions and answers and practice tests. The core materials are not voluminous (a few hundred pages) and provide you with everything you need to pass the examinations.

The examinations are not given by the law society but by the same providers who offer the preparation courses. You do not have to take the classes or buy the materials from the provider in order to sit for the exam with them, although you will have to pay a reasonable examination fee. While the exams generally are given in London, in the past they have been offered in New York and Toronto.

Each exam topic consists of a three-hour essay exam and you must score at least 50 percent overall to pass. You may repeat one exam without retaking the others and you may take them one at a time. The pass rate on these examinations approaches 90 percent, and this includes examinees whose native language is not English and whose law school training was in non-common law systems. In short, with a reasonable degree of preparation, the exams are not difficult.

Step 3.

The final step is pro forma and consists of the submission of the exam results and your actual admission to the law society.

Admission in Australia.

Australia, like the United States, has a federal system of government and law licensure is regulated by the individual states rather than the national government. The procedure in place in the Australian state of New South Wales is typical and quite similar to the admissions process in England.

However, rather than a completely separate track for the admission of foreign lawyers, the external lawyer is admitted under the same standards and procedures as a novice domestic lawyer but with a system of exemptions from various requirements. Like England, New South Wales has both solicitors and barristers. The requirements for admission as a solicitor follow.

Admission as a Solicitor follows a three-step process:

A person seeking to qualify as a solicitor in New South Wales must meet certain educational and experience requirements.

Step 1.
For a domestic applicant, they must either graduate from an Australian law school or independently pass a series of examinations on various legal topics such as contracts and torts given through the Legal Practitioners Admission Board. An American applicant who attended law school in the United States can readily obtain an exemption for most of the educational requirements.

Step 2.
The second requirement is that of practical training. An Australian law student, after completing school, is required to have a period of on-the-job training with a law firm. This period of ‘‘articles’’ or apprenticeship normally lasts several years. An American lawyer with at least five years of general practice experience will normally receive a complete exemption from this requirement as well.

It is important to bear in mind that the education and experience requirements are not prerequisites to take a bar examination. New South Wales does not have a bar examination; meeting the education and experience requirements is sufficient.

An American lawyer with the training and experience suggested above would take the following steps to become admitted in New South Wales:

  • First, apply to the board for academic exemptions by furnishing the board with U.S. law school transcripts and asking them to make a formal determination whether any further course work is required. For U.S. applicants, usually all academic requirements except real property and Australian constitutional law are exempted.
The real property and constitutional courses could be taken in Australia, by correspondence, or by online distance education on the Internet. The University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales offers such a program. The courses can be taken sequentially or simultaneously. After course completion, you will again communicate with the board to obtain approval for having satisfied the remaining academic requirements.
  • While taking these courses, you will also want to file with the board to obtain exemption from the practical training requirement. If you can show that you have had at least five years of general practice, you will be exempted from the training requirement.
  • With the academic and training exemptions in hand, you would then file the formal application, with supporting documents, with the board to obtain actual admission to practice as a solicitor in New South Wales.
Admission in Hong Kong.

Admission in Hong Kong more closely resembles the process in England than Australia. Like England and Australia, the profession in Hong Kong is divided into solicitors and barristers. In Hong Kong, like England, there is a system in place specifically designed for the admission of foreign lawyers as solicitors. This system is administered by the Hong Kong Law Society.

Admission as a Solicitor follows a three-step process:

The threshold requirements for admission as an overseas lawyer are minimal; there is no express educational requirement, but you must be admitted to practice in another jurisdiction and have practiced for a minimum of two years.

A lawyer applying from a common law jurisdiction is required to pass up to four examinations:

  • Conveyancing and Landlord and Tenant
  • Civil and Criminal Procedure
  • Commercial and Company Law
  • Accounts and Professional Conduct
However, lawyers who have a minimum of five years of experience are automatically exempt from the Civil and Criminal Procedure examination and are eligible to apply for examination waivers from Commercial and Company Law and Accounts and Professional Conduct.

Due to the unusual nature of land law in Hong Kong, only those having significant experience in dealing with real estate in Hong Kong are eligible for a waiver of the real property examination.

Step 1.
Filing the Overseas Lawyer Qualification Application Form begins the process, with a letter requesting exemptions for which you may be entitled, supporting documentation showing your domestic licensure, length of practice experience, and such evidence as would support your request for exemptions, together with the application fee. The Department of Standards and Development of the Hong Kong Law Society will evaluate your application and advise you regarding which examinations you must take.

Step 2.
The second step is to prepare to take the examinations. There are two accredited preparatory course providers who offer both classroom instruction or distance learning programs:

  • Info-Cite/LexisNexis Butterworths
  • The School of Professional and Continuing Education
Step 3.
The third step is to actually sit for the examinations, after submitting an application for examinations to the law society and paying the examination fee, based on the number of exams. The exams are given only in Hong Kong. The various exams are offered within a few days of each other and each exam lasts 3 1/2 hours.

The overall pass rate for the exams ranges from 50 percent to 70 percent and the pass rate on the exams that an experienced American Lawyer would most apt to be required to take (property and ethics) are around 70 percent. When a candidate passes the required exams, he or she can apply for admission as a solicitor.

Aside from a simple formal application form and the fee, there is also a residency requirement that can be satisfied by:

  • residing in Hong Kong 90 days prior to admission
  • residing in Hong Kong 90 days after admission
  • being ordinarily a resident of Hong Kong
For the foreign lawyer not already based in Hong Kong, this residency requirement may be the most burdensome of the requirements, but it should not be viewed as an insurmountable barrier. There is a large legal and academic community in Hong Kong and anyone taking the trouble to obtain licensure there would normally have an interest in working, studying, or teaching there for at least a short period of time.

Of course, after you have met the country's various licensure requirements, the next crucial step is to find employment overseas. "How to Conduct a Succesful Search Overseas" is a topic we will cover in a future blog post.

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