Acumen Outsourcing Case (India)
Here's the story from The American Lawyer Daily:
Does Legal Outsourcing Put Private Info at Risk?
Posted by Zach Lowe
Late last month the American Bar Association gave the green light to legal outsourcing, provided that firms sending work overseas make sure that everything done beyond U.S. borders is done by the book--including the protection of confidential information.
Even before the ABA move, one Maryland firm was worried enough about the privacy issue to file a lawsuit against Acumen Legal Services, a legal-process outsourcing company based in India. The basis of the May complaint, filed by Joseph Hennessy, a name partner at the Maryland boutique Newman, McIntosh & Hennessey: Given that the federal government now monitors some communications between citizens here and foreign nationals, LPOs can't guarantee that a client's personal information is safe from such surveillance.
Last week, responding to a motion to dismiss filed by Acumen's legal team, Hennessey voluntarily dismissed his complaint. But, he says, that's not the end of his battle to make sure legal outsourcing doesn't result in the government getting its hands on confidential information.
"We're going to dig deeper and identify clients," says Hennessy, who's leaving his current firm to join up with Beins & Goldberg in Washington, D.C.
Hennessey's complaint did not seek any damages or name any individual victims. Instead, he asked a federal judge at U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., to issue an injunction against outsourcing and make several declarations about the danger outsourcing may pose to confidential information.
In response to Hennessy's gambit, Acumen hired a group of lawyers at SDD Global Solutions, itself an India-based LPO run by the U.S. firm SmithDehn, to fight the suit. (Sacha Baron Cohen fans may remember SmithDehn as the the firm that served as production counsel for the Borat movie.)
The SDD team argued that Hennessey's firm had no evidence of any confidential documents slipping into the wrong hands, that the entire case was speculative, and, pointedly, that Hennessey's firm was "trying to outsource their legal research tasks to this court." Any injunction, SDD claimed, could unfairly harm thousands of businesses and law firms not named in the suit.
Lawyers at other LPOs say they aren't surprised by Hennessey's decision to withdraw the suit.
"This wasn't something we were waiting on with bated breath," says Ram Vasudevan, chief executive office at Quislex, which employs about 200 lawyers in India. "We didn't think it had a lot of merit."
Vasudevan says clients are justifiably concerned about the security of documents and other material sent overseas for review. But he says LPOs like his have hired independent auditors and taken other steps to ensure confidential is protected.
Before revisiting the matter, Hennessey says he plans to specifically explore whether any confidential medical documents have been intercepted by government operatives. He expects to find specific plaintiffs. When he does, he says, he plans to head back to court and seek specific damages.
"I'd rather not just litigate an academic issue," Hennessey says. "I'd rather litigate something with liability and damages."
Zack Lowe is a reporter for The American Lawyer.
Monica Bay adds: Here are some of the court documents