Legal Work Knows No Boundaries

Welcome, lawyers, to the age of globalization.

Just as they've shifted manufacturing services and customer-service representatives offshore, organizations are now sending legal work to cheaper locales in the name of frugality.

"Cost savings is driving this trend," says Cassandra Burke Robertson, JD, of Case Western Reserve University's School of Law. "With the global recession, companies have less money to spend on legal services, so they're looking for ways to save."

She says the majority of work sent abroad is in the form of low-level legal tasks like transcriptions and form completions, but, increasingly, U.S. firms are relying on international talent for more complex work, like legal research and brief- and contract-drafting.

Robertson's research, recently published in the Arizona State Law Journal, shows how the trend is reshaping the practice of law in the West by lowering its cost. Lower cost means companies and individuals alike can engage in litigation they wouldn't have been able to afford—and wouldn't have pursued—10 years ago.