Law firm The Law Point recently launched a consulting arm called the Consulting Point, intending to create a space in the alternate legal services provider (ALSP) market in India. Poornima Advani, managing partner, The Law Practice, talks to ALB about the ALSP market right now, and her plans to grow the Consulting Point.
ALB: Despite the growth of ALSPs in other Asian jurisdictions like Singapore and Hong Kong, why is the usage still so low in India?
ADVANI: India is relatively more conservative in terms of doing business. Existing relationships matter a lot, and the industry, in general, is wary about unconventional institutions. This is backed by concerns about ALSPs in terms of quality of work and information security as compared to law firms. Moreover, one of the major factors which paves way for ALSPs in other jurisdiction is the pricing, which simply doesn’t work in India as the pricing put forward by law firms – including some very reputed ones – can be very competitive.
ALB: What specific ways do you feel you can benefit in-house legal teams? Has the pandemic changed it in any way?
ADVANI: The pandemic has made businesses rethink and cut down their legal expenditure. There is increased pressure on in-house legal teams on executing work themselves, which they would have in many other circumstances outsourced to a law firm. However, not all companies have general counsels (GC) or senior legal members who will be able to provide mature legal advice which can replace the advice coming from law firms. We look to work with companies as their outsourced GC, for a fraction of the cost that they would have to spend for having an in-house GC. This would include taking care of the entire role of a GC in supporting the in-house legal team, advising the board members of the company, imbibing legaltech in improving the processes, and under-taking many other legal functions which would generally be outsourced to a law firm.
ALB: What is your strategy to increase awareness of ALSPs in India?
ADVANI: Our primary strategy involves collaborations with organisations and educational institutions to spread awareness about alternative legal services. We have also made plans to provide mentoring to young lawyers to provide insight into the viability of a legal career outside commonly existing alternatives, and to aid those that wish to pursue a path towards becoming an ALSP. NewLaw emerged in other jurisdictions to fill a vacuum in legal services, and changing market forces will play a large role in its emergence here too. In the end, the hope is that our reputation for quality legal service will be integral in mainstreaming the idea of ALSPs in India.
ALB: How do you see the ALSP land-scape change over the next few years? What factors will drive it?
ADVANI: Client preferences have always driven trends in service provision. As in other countries, the demand for ALSPs in India will increase over time because of rising legal expenses and limitations in in-house capacity in terms of human resources and technology. ALSPs will slowly but surely take up greater market share over the next few years. What is most likely to happen is that law firms will adopt new technologies and create verticals that provide alternative legal services to their clients in an attempt to minimise costs, but retain control over their matters and processes. A rising number of international firms have embraced this model and it is likely to find favour here too. In areas such as regulatory risk, compliance, and due diligence, law firms will also find themselves competing with accounting firms, as is evident from their growing role, especially the Big Four accounting firms, in providing certain kind of services which can be classified as legal services.
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