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The Papadam Chase

Ask an American lawyer how secure her career is and she’ll probably give you the standard flip response: In a litigation-loving society like this one, there will always be a need for our kind. And at first blush, she’d be right: According to a July 2005 study from the NASSCOM Research Group, the U.S. market for legal services in 2003 was $166.8 billion, which was more than five times the second largest country, the U.K., which spent just $34.2 billion. Japan, by contrast, had a market size of just over $1 billion. We love, hate and most of all, are obsessed with the law and the lawyers.

But that doesn’t mean it takes an American to practice American law. The report, on legal-services offshoring, says that U.S. companies are increasingly turning to India, which graduates some 298,000 new lawyers every year, for a cheaper alternative to the high-priced hotshots here at home. The advantages are the same we’ve seen in other industries, such as expertise in English, a familiarity with British legal traditions and, of course, the salaries, which are 20-30% of their American counterparts. The report is further proof that intellectual capital is no longer safe from the global pressures that we’ve seen elsewhere in the economy. According to a Forrester study cited in the report, 12,000 legal jobs have been offshored so far, and the number is likely to reach 79,000 by 2015. Could a Bollywood version of Law and Order be far behind?

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