For almost a decade, they were the public face in the West of Indian legal outsourcing. But last month, David Perla and Sanjay Kamlani, co-founders and co-CEOs of New York- and Mumbai-based Pangea3 LLC, exited the industry that they helped pioneer.
Perla and Kamlani left as they had agreed after Thomson Reuters Corp. acquired Pangea3 two years ago for what the Business Standard of India estimated was as much as $40 million. But both men insist that their leaving doesn't imply that the market for LPOs has peaked, or that they got out at the top.
"I think we're still in the early stages," Perla says. "To use a baseball analogy, this is maybe the bottom of the third inning."
Perla and Kamlani were among the first to encourage U.S. law firms to shift their commodity law tasks to India-based LPOs. They also tirelessly promoted their company and the LPO concept in media interviews, and Pangea3 was the focus of most early press articles about Indian legal outsourcing in the West.
In some of their interviews, the pair expressed sharp disdain for U.S. temp and contract lawyers, who still perform a larger share of the legal work LPOs have targeted.
"The only lawyers who work for staffing agencies," Perla told the New York Law Journal, an Asian Lawyer sister publication, in 2008, "are the ones who couldn't make it as real lawyers."
Years later, their outlook hasn't changed.
"If you're not in this full time, learning the wide variety of skills and mastering the wide array of tools, I think you're at a competitive disadvantage," Perla says.
Their evangelism helped to catalyze a shift of some U.S. firms' commodity law tasks to India. They also helped guide the LPO industry from a focus on mere cheap labor to a greater reliance on technology. Many observers have predicted that LPOs will transform the profession though just as many have pointed out that grandiose growth projections have still yet to pan out.
The LPO industry started by handling document review and other basic litigation tasks, but has expanded to offer other services. Regulatory overhauls (such as the DoddFrank Act in the United States) have put a greater emphasis on compliance, Perla says, and Pangea3 now offers a review process that helps companies find the gaps between their existing policies and the new regulations. At the same time, the accumulation of intellectual property assets by both corporations and nonpracticing entities (a.k.a. "patent trolls") has made patent management a priority, and Pangea3 now offers to help companies audit their patent portfolio.