Are We Ignoring ‘Ethics’ While Doing Legal Outsourcing?
In this Information Age, legal outsourcing is not just limited to back-office paralegal tasks, word processing; instead, with more substantive issues such as patent applications and electronic discovery. It involves many tasks conventionally done by U.S. lawyers for substantially higher prices now. A foreign or a remote lawyer can perform the same functions as U.S. lawyers and are willing to work for a fraction of the cost.
Besides, and perhaps more important than outsourcing legal work to foreign companies, it also raises a host of ethical and professional conduct issues. These employees are not licensed to practice law in the United States, which means the Rules of Professional Conduct do not bound them. Moreover, the American Bar Association doesn’t provide any formal guidance for such professional relationships.
The legal profession may have become progressively more commercial and automated. However, an attorney still has a fiduciary relationship with her client that goes beyond the mere “business” of practicing law. Law firms should proceed with carefulness when picking a particular outsourcing structure/relationship. Usually, the root cause of many ethical problems is miscommunication; accordingly, Law firms should remain exceedingly and properly informed when choosing an outsourcing company and throughout the outsourcing process. Firms or attorneys should keep communication and control over the outsourced work. Although maintaining both elements may be difficult given the obvious distance and cultural barriers to many outsourcing companies abroad, law firms/attorneys should still endeavor to maintain as much communication and control as viably possible.
An outsourcing firm or lawyer must identify and minimize the risk that any outside service provider divulges any confidential information to adverse parties or any party not entitled to access. That’s why written confidentiality agreements are, therefore, strongly advisable in outsourcing relationships.
When selecting to outsource, local counsel should carefully examine the proposed provider. Issues that counsel should address before engaging a service provider should include, for example, the skill and experience level of the staff utilized by the outsourcing firms to perform the task, measures, and precautions taken by the service provider to ensure your confidentiality, and seek references from reliable sources.
Also, please refer to this article from ABA(American Bar Association) on tips to avoid ethical violations while outsourcing.
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