In an early Outsourcing Opinions article, The Philippines Supports US Law Firms Through Outsourcing, the benefits of legal outsourcing were highlighted. US law firms are outsourcing the labor intensive tasks of their legal matters to off-shore destinations like the Philippines and doing so makes these lawyers able to provide better value services to their clients.

In light of this, the American Bar Association (ABA) and its Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently announced its formal opinion which concludes that US lawyers are free to outsource legal work to lawyers and paralegals domestically or internationally, provided that they adhere to certain ethical rules.

In Muneris ut Lex. In service to the Law.

The ABA has found outsourcing can reduce client costs and enable small firms to handle larger legal matters and provide labor intensive services such as large, discovery intense litigation, even though such firms might not maintain sufficient ongoing staff.

According to the ABA’s Formal Opinion 08-451, titled “Lawyer’s Obligations When Outsourcing Legal and Non-legal Support Services” issued last August 5, 2008.

A US lawyer can outsource legal/non-legal support services provided the lawyer remains ultimately responsible for rendering competent legal services to his/her client. The following ethical ground rules must be strictly observed:

I. The lawyer  has “direct supervisory authority” and makes reasonable efforts, like reference checks and background investigations, to confirm the conduct of those to whom tasks are outsourced (legal, non-legal service providers and other intermediaries) is aligned with his or her own professional ethics and obligations.
II. The lawyer must inform the client of utilizing legal/non-legal support services in regards to the client’s legal matters and receives consent from the client.
III. The lawyer should recognize and minimize the risk breaches in confidentiality from the legal/non-legal service providers
IV. The legal fees charged must be reasonable (“no mark up is permitted”) and otherwise in compliance with the obligations under Rule 1.5 governing the use of contract attorneys, and
V. The lawyer must avoid assisting the unauthorized practice of law, “if the service provider is found to be not authorized to practice law”.

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  1. “Formal Opinion 08-451: Lawyer’s Obligations When Outsourcing Legal and Non-legal Support Services”. 5 August 2008. The American Bar Association. Accessed 5 September 2008. Link here
  2. Lin, Anthony. “ABA gives thumbs up to Legal Outsourcing.” 27 August 2008. Accessed 5 September 2008. Link here
  3. Slonim, Nancy. “ABA Ethics Committee Issues Opinion Detailing Lawyer Responsibilities When Outsourcing Legal Work Domestically or Internationally.” 25 August 2008. Press Release–The American Bar Association. Accessed 5 September 2008. Link here


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