The Bar Association of Sri Lanka, (BASL) in collaboration with the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) will be holding an international conference on Legal Process Outsourcing in partnership with the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).
“The Conference on the theme ‘Outsourcing versus Restructuring’ is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 9th and Friday, 10th February, 2012 at the Ivy Room, Cinnamon Grand and is intended to create awareness about Sri Lanka as a preferred destination of choice for Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO), which is one of the objectives of the Forum called the Legal Solutions Forum (LSF), established in 2011” BASL President Shibly Aziz, PC said.
He said so while participating at a recent media briefing held in Colombo by BASL and the young lawyers’ largest international association AIJA (Association Internationale des Jeunes Avocats). “The AIJA with the active support of ICTA approached us wanting to have an international conference to popularise Sri Lanka as an outsourcing hub for legal services and we grabbed the opportunity”, the BASL President confirmed. “Thanks to this initiative, not only the lawyers but also the business people and the Government will benefit from the inflow of foreign exchange”, the BASL President explained.
Thanking the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) for its guidance and support for the up-coming seminar the BASL President introduced ICTA Director / Legal Advisor Jayantha Fernando “as one of the leading world authorities on the subject of ICT Law”. Also attending the Press conference were BASL Secretary Mahinda Lokuge, Representative of AIJA Attorney John Wilson and Javed Mansoor.
Speaking briefly at the press briefing Jayantha Fernando said:
Wider objective of ICTA
“As the apex ICT entity of the country, ICTA’s main objective here is to come and provide strategic partnership support not only for this specific event - SL's first international LPO seminar in February - but also to provide continued support to promote the country as a destination for legal outsourcing, in the same way we have done in the past. We are pleased that the Legal Solutions Forum (LSF) has recently been established with the support of BASL. (www.lsf.lk)
“We also thank the Bar Association for its dynamism by giving leadership to another area of outsourcing that needs to be expanded in the country. Some of our friends here already know that Sri Lanka has been spearheading and moving in a positive direction over the last several years to expand this sector, better known as the BPO/ KPO sector. Furthermore, most of the large law firms in Sri Lanka have helped to form the LSF which is highly commendable”, he said.
Sri Lanka’s presence in LPO
It was pointed out that already the leadership and thrust in this arena is provided by entities like W.N.S, Legal Base and Tellida. However, the legal process outsourcing or LPO is not yet well known in Sri Lanka. In paving the way for legal outsourcing Fernando also recognised the support extended by one of Mr. Aziz’, predecessors, Nihal Jayamanne, President’s Counsel. “He helped us immensely when the very first operation commenced in Sri Lanka a few years back” Fernando acknowledged.
Why legal outsourcing should be considered
Many global organisations as well as international law firms are looking at Asia for value addition to support legal activities connected with legal research, formulation of opinions, comparison of views and opinions from multiple jurisdictions and doing standard paper work like filling the blanks of a template contract. Through this process many companies try to reduce their internal operating costs.
Sri Lanka’s suitability for legal outsourcing
During the press conference Fernando pointed out that Sri Lanka was ideally suited as a venue for legal outsourcing for several reasons, namely, “highly skilled legal resources in this country educated in the traditions of common law and benefitting from the hybrid system such as Roman Dutch Law inherent in our system and available at competitive rates as well as the robust ICT infrastructure”. BASL President Shibly Aziz adding said: “there are a lot of young English educated legal professionals passing out from many colleges / institutions in Sri Lanka, most notably from the Law College, the Law Faculty and from foreign universities who are eagerly wanting to be part of this activity”.
Value addition stemming from legal outsourcing
“One important value addition stemming from the legal outsourcing activity will be, we hope, many young lawyers will have the opportunity to become more familiar with commercial law and legal practices of jurisdictions such as US and European Union, providing a launching pad for international legal activity to take off in a bigger way and create an echo system for the improvement of commercial law in general in this country” Fernando said.
Estimation of current outsourcing business
Several speakers at the news conference said that it was very difficult to estimate the current outsourcing business. “Many companies are not willing to share details, perhaps for reasons of confidentiality etc. According to recent estimates the ICT outsourcing business in the country is about 450 million US dollars. This is a huge growth compared to 75 - 100 million USD seven years ago. Although USD 1 billion US dollars has been fixed as a target we need to be cautious in fixing values because much of this is dependent on the economic situation in other countries and many countries are not in the best of situations right now”, Fernando pointed out.
LPO Conference and role of AIJA
Speaking specifically about the conference, scheduled in February Attorney John Wilson said: “about 50 – 65 eminent local as well as about 10 – 15 specialist foreign lawyers are expected to participate in the seminar”. He also urged the audience to visit the website www.lsf.lk to get more details about the objectives, mission and aims of the Legal Solutions Forum (LSF). Speaking on the formation of the Forum, Wilson said: “the Forum was formed with the collaboration of BASL President Shibly Aziz and aims to promote Sri Lanka as a viable destination for legal outsourcing”. He said that the industry was expanding hugely and the cake was huge in terms of employment opportunities as well as, of course, earnings for the country. The current President of the non-profit organisation AIJA was a Finish lawyer, Tanja Jussila who will grace the early February seminar.
Participating in the media briefing Attorney Javed Mansoor said that the two-day seminar themed “Outsourcing vs restructuring” would be a groundbreaking event. Elaborating on the importance of the groundbreaking event Mansoor said:“It will go a long way in placing Sri Lanka on the map, making it a jurisdiction which facilitates outsourcing business. Of course it is small now. If we can get more of the pie it is good for all of us as an excellent foreign exchange earner. It will also help ancillary industries as well. This will include software development which is encouraged by the Government as manifested by tax exemptions for software development. For example the Nation Building Tax Act of 2011 contains provisions exempting software development in Sri Lanka both in terms of software developed in Sri Lanka and sold to institutions overseas”.
BASL Secretary Mahinda Lokuge expressing his views at the media briefing said that many young Sri Lankans were returning to Sri Lanka equipped with qualifications in the field of law. Pointing out the special advantage of quite a number of young Sri Lankan lawyers BASL Secretary underlined: They are all conversant in English and therefore are ready and adaptable to fit into the field of legal outsourcing. The two-day seminar scheduled to be held on February 9th and 10 th will be in ideal opportunity for promoting this industry which has vast potential.
The keynote speakers lined up for the seminar are Gaurav Jabulee, Senior Counsel- Asia Texas Instruments, (Bangalore, India), Attorney-at-law Jayantha Fernando (ICTA- Sri Lanka), Anne Saizer, Cabinet Saizer, France, Filip Van Elen, (Brussels, Belgium), Rahul Mattha, India, Ravishankar Pandit, Mphasis, Sri Lanka, Martine Hoogendoom, (Netherlands), Marta Trindade, (Portugal), Ravi Peiris, Director General, Employees' Federation of Ceylon, Leslie Devendra, Secretary General Sri Lanka Free Workers Union, Dinesh Weerakkody, (Sri Lanka), Avinash Vashista, (India), Isabelle Lux, (Luxembourg), Eugenia Chuang, Taiwan, Vishal Gandhi, India, Ranel Wijesinghe, Institute of Chartered Accounts of Sri Lanka and Attorney-at-Law John Wilson, John Wilson Partners, Sri Lanka.
AIJA is the only global association devoted to lawyers and inhouse counsel aged 45 and under. It is the largest international association of young lawyers in the world with a 3000 strong active membership aimed to promote professional cooperation and friendship among young career-building legal professionals. AIJA is a bilingual non-profit association, (www.aija.org)