Fulbright scholar to study legal work outsourcing

Jesse Fenichel
Sociology doctoral candidate Jesse Fenichel recently received a Fulbright award to conduct research in the Philippines on the consequences outsourcing practices could have on the legal systems there and in the U.S. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Jesse Fenichel has first-​​hand expe­ri­ence with the increas­ingly dif­fi­cult labor market con­di­tions faced by Amer­ican lawyers. A lawyer him­self, and a soci­ology doc­toral can­di­date at North­eastern, Fenichel works in the sum­mers as a “temp attorney.” During his time at North­eastern, he has noticed sub­stan­tial decreases in the wages paid to temp attor­neys and the amount of avail­able work.

One reason, he said, is because lawyers in other coun­tries are doing a great deal of legal work at a lower cost. One of the most pop­ular coun­tries for legal process out­sourcing is the Philip­pines, where Fenichel will con­duct research for nine months starting in November thanks to a Ful­bright award.

“I’m pretty excited,” Fenichel said of the award. “There has not been a lot of in-​​depth research into how much this bur­geoning industry is affecting the legal pro­fes­sion in this country.”

The Ful­bright U.S. Scholar Pro­gram sup­ports about 800 Amer­ican scholars and pro­fes­sionals who go to more than 100 coun­tries to lec­ture and/​or con­duct research in a wide variety of fields. The pro­gram is over­seen by the U.S. State Department.

Fenichel says a vast majority of legal work in the U.S., such as reviewing doc­u­ments for a large cor­po­rate lit­i­ga­tion, doesn’t have to be done by a reg­is­tered lawyer, as long as a bar-​​certified attorney over­sees the work. So to save money and decrease the work­load of their own attor­neys, law firms send an increasing amount of basic legal work overseas.

“In 2008 the Amer­ican Bar Asso­ci­a­tion had to address the issue because it was becoming such a big thing,” Fenichel explained. “And it basi­cally gave its blessing.”

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