‘I Love My American Job’: Professional Prestige in the Indian Outsourcing Industry and Global Consequences of an Expanding Legal Profession
Swethaa Ballakrishnen, ‘I Love My American Job’: Professional Prestige in the Indian Outsourcing Industry and Global Consequences of an Expanding Legal Profession, 19 Int'l J. Legal Prof. (2012).
A crucial consequence of the explosion of legal work is the expansion of the locations where this work is actually being done. With client pressures and rising global credibility of a competent end product, international offshoring has become an obvious extension of the global value-chain. Relying on lawyers in the developing world to meet deadlines has moved from being a possible alternative to a potential imperative for legal strategists. This paper looks at one (possibly unintended?) consequence that this diversification of workflow introduces in the domestic legal profession of the supplying nation by examining the ways in which this process shapes prestige stratification within the Indian legal profession. Using field data from the Indian legal outsourcing industry (collected as part of the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Professions Study on legal process outsourcing firms), it suggests the ways in which association to the West has emerged as a marker of prestige and how, while important, traditional understandings of prestige markers are not enough to explain this transformative function. Universality of professional prestige has traditionally not taken into consideration the effect of globalization as a prestige factor in and of itself. The article offers that, in addition to the markers used (e.g. level of skill, monetary rewards, etc.), and especially while trying to understand the emerging industrialized world, an approach more reflective of the ‘halo’ effect of the West is crucial.