Few years ago it would have been unheard of. But thanks to outsourcing, engineering graduates have yet another interesting career option to explore working in a law firm.
Some legal process outsourcing (LPO) firms in India have been recruiting engineers in recent times, primarily to work in the area of patents and intellectual property rights (IPR).
Patents are for technological innovations and unless one understands technology, it is not possible to produce a quality work product, says Mr Ajay Agrawal, Chief Solutions Officer, UnitedLex Corporation.
The company has a team of experienced and fresh engineers who analyse new technologies and are also involved in writing patents, often considered a lawyers job.
In the US, IP work has always been performed by patent attorneys who have engineering/scientific backgrounds, says Mr Agrawal.
Consequently, engineers are billed 25 per cent higher than lawyers, he says without disclosing billing rates.
Mr Sanjay Kalmani, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Pangea3, says he hires engineers partly because clients want it so. In the US, a legal firm usually outsources any patent related work to a firm of engineers. Our clients do not want us to further outsource their work, explains Mr Kalmani.
Pangea3 employs 70 engineers, most of who are IIT and NIT graduates. They do technological research in areas such as electronics, computers (hardware and software), telecommunications, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and mechanical engineering. This eventually decides if a clients idea is patentable or not. Engineers also evaluate existing IP portfolios and determine their worth. Together with lawyers they decide how best to make money out of it, says Mr Kalmani.
The average annual pay packet for freshers joining LPOs is Rs 4-7 lakh while experienced professionals may get over Rs 10 lakh, say industry players.
The career path for engineers in LPOs is similar to that of lawyers. One moves from patent engineers to domain specialists and later takes up managerial roles.
According to Nassscom, the current addressable market potential for legal services outsourced from the US is $3-4 billion (about Rs 16,000 crore).