ABA Ethics Committee Opinion Detailing Lawyer Responsibilities When Outsourcing Legal Work Domestically or Internationally

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on August 27, 2008

News release: “U.S. lawyers are free to outsource legal work, including to lawyers or nonlawyers outside the country, if they adhere to ethics rules requiring competence, supervision, protection of confidential information, reasonable fees and not assisting unauthorized practice of law.

Those are the conclusions of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which describes outsourcing as a salutary trend in a global economy. Many lawyers do outsource work, using lawyers or nonlawyers as independent contractors, hiring them directly or through intermediaries and on temporary or ongoing bases, says the committee.

Outsourcing can reduce client costs and enable small firms to provide labor intensive services such as large, discovery intense litigation, even though the firms might not maintain sufficient ongoing staff to handle the work, according to a new ethics opinion issued today. Ethics Opinion 08-451 details ethics obligations of lawyers and firms that do elect to outsource legal work.

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