As attorneys in New York retire for the day, it’s the start of a fresh cycle of legal work for Mumbai lawyer Dhiraj Merchant. But the 28-year-old does not wear a lawyer’s black coat. Nor does he walk into courtrooms or argue cases. He never wanted to.
Instead, based on the previous evening’s conference call with a US client, a formally dressed Merchant already knows his tasks for the day — processing medical insurance claims for employees in the US or reviewing contracts that his team has worked on for a UK company.
A law graduate, Merchant belongs to the country’s young legal process outsourcing sector, whose annual revenue is forecast to reach $640 million by 2010. It is a sector where legal departments of companies and other organisations based in the US or Europe outsource work to India, and pay half the price they would have otherwise.
The sector is booming, as evident from Merchant’s career graph. It took him four months of deliberation to pick this career. But four years after joining Mindcrest (India), he carries the title of legal manager and takes home a six-figure salary every month.
“That’s a 400 percent jump from the time I joined the firm in 2004,” he said, sitting in his Prabhadevi office. “Starting my own legal practice or becoming a successful counsel would take a lot of time. I was impatient. I wanted to make money early.”
Merchant started off as an ‘associate, legal support service’ in November 2004, drafting documents and doing legal research. By end-2005, he became a project attorney, leading four projects. A year later, he became a legal manager heading 40 people.
“Four years is the longest that any employee has worked in the sector,” said Rohan Dalal, managing director of Mindcrest (India). “As we reward performance, stories like Dhiraj’s will become common.”
Had it been a traditional law firm, Merchant many not have moved up the ladder so quickly. “An old, reputed law firm means good experience,but career growth is slow and they are not good pay masters,” Merchant said. “Besides, you may need a godfather.”