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medical imaging, American companies tend to be reticent about sending legal work overseas to outsourcing
firms. Third-party outsourcing companies, like Intellevate and Lexadigm, are secretive about their client
lists, concerned about a backlash from workers or customers in U.S. According to Leon Steinberg, one
Intellevate client company was paranoid about its Intellevate agreements becoming public because it was
fearful of how its labor unions would feel about use of Indian labor. "In our contract with them, it says
we will not divulge that they are a client without their advanced written consent," Steinberg explained. "The
next sentence says we will not seek their advanced written consent."
Even Microsoft, which has been widely reported to be using Intellevate for patent research, declined to
discuss company beyond confirming that Microsoft is a client and issuing a statement that "[as] a global
company, we are constantly working to improve our ability to serve our customers worldwide in most cost
effective, efficient manner."
Given this reluctance to discuss outsourcing, convincing a potential client to accept even a free sample can
take months of lobbying. Intellevate offers to prepare at no fee a mock patent application for firms it
courts, but this offer is often declined. Steinberg has been forced to resort to more aggressive tactics.
Eighteen months after applications are filed with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, they become public
record. Steinberg recently had Intellevate's Indian staff comb through a company's latest USPTO applications
for errors. When they found some, one of them serious, Steinberg contacted large D.C. law firm that had
filed application. He flashed a devious smile recounting a partner's response to his unsolicited help:
"This is outrageous." If mistake doesn't convince D.C. firm to work with Intellevate, Steinberg said,
"there's nothing stopping us from sending it to corporation."
AT LEXADIGM, ATTORNEYS' SALARIES range from $6,000 to $36,000. The employees, whose résumés lead off with LLMs
from top U.S. law schools and are studded with internships at World Trade Organization in Geneva and
apprenticeships at Indian Supreme Court, would earn six-figure salaries at elite U.S. law firms. But
education visas most of these young attorneys used to study in United States allow for only one year of
work after graduation, so most have to return to India to find jobs.
The disparity in salaries makes this seem like a more heroic sacrifice than it is. The lifestyle a Lexadigm or
Intellevate salary buys is in many ways more lavish than an American attorney's. (And more than an Indian
attorney's—Intellevate employees make 40 percent more than new associates at corporate law firms in India;
many left such jobs to come to Intellevate.) Savinda Gupta is a 2004 graduate of Delhi University's law school
who works below her education level as a paralegal at Intellevate's office. Gupta, who wore a drab khaki
sweater highlighted by a bright pink shawl, called a dupatta, thrown across her shoulders, employs three
part-time servants, one of whom washes her two cars daily. "Everybody does it," she said. "Delhi is very
While plight of underpaid legal researchers is unlikely to be next cause célébre for
anti-sweatshop movement, legal outsourcing, whispered about now, is likely to become a hotly debated topic in
American law soon. For now, third-party outsourcers like Intellevate and Lexadigm remain popular mostly with
corporate legal departments, which use outsourcing to keep costs down. Large law firms have been slower to
send work to overseas outsourcers.
But what if they were to come around? Thomas Morgan, professional responsibility expert, says bar
association ethics rules require law firms to pass on to clients cost savings from outsourcing. In theory, at
least, it would take only one big firm looking for a competitive advantage to start a bidding war that could
change cost of buying legal advice in U.S.
In meantime, outsourcing firms continue to find resourceful ways to improve their product. English is
language of business in India, but not of common parlance; written Indian English has retained much of its
Raj-era formality. Not far from offices of a legal outsourcing company in Mumbai called Mindcrest, a sign
over a busy intersection reads, "Jaywalking Is Injurious to Your Health." To help their employees learn to
write simple, direct, American sentences, company has begun giving all its new hires Hemingway's The Old
Man and Sea. A strategy an expatriate could appreciate.
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