Sections of the legal profession are worried that junior lawyers will lose jobs as a result of Mallesons' outsourcing agreement.
Lawyers Weekly announced yesterday (27 October) that Mallesons will be using 200 trained lawyers in India for legal work after signing a legal process outsourcing (LPO) contract with American-based LPO provider Integreon.
When asked by Lawyers Weekly if this would result in a cut in the firm's graduate recruitment numbers, managing partner Tony O'Malley was unequivocal with his response. He said the move was "not at all" indicative of a long-term strategy to operate with a lower leverage ratio.
"It won't change the graduate intake at all," he said. "Major trends in the market can have an impact on numbers and fluctuations on that, but we don't see this as having a major impact."
The Australian Law Students' Association (ALSA) is more cautious.
It issued a release stating that its "main concern is the effect such an agreement will have on recruitment and retention of young lawyers".
"Should this not be the case in the future and negative afflictions are imposed upon law graduates in their endeavours to gain or continue employment, ALSA will revisit its stance on this kind of outsourcing," it said.
ALSA also noted that it welcomes comments by Mallesons that the move will expose young lawyers to more diverse legal work.
When asked to comment further by Lawyers Weekly, ALSA declined, citing its relationship with Mallesons. The firm is one of several ALSA sponsors, with top-tier law firms Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz, Minter Ellison and Freehills also sponsors of the organisation.
Senior members of the profession are also closely monitoring what effect the Mallesons agreement, and any further outsourcing agreements by other firms, will have on the Australian legal profession.
The president of the Law Council of Australia, Alex Ward, told Lawyers Weekly that "while the use of Indian lawyers is quite commonplace in jurisdictions such as the UK, it is a matter that will be considered by the LCA shortly".
It is expected that several Australian-based law firms will soon announce similar outsourcing agreements with LPO providers before the end of the year.