N.Y. Bar OKs Overseas Outsourcing
New York lawyers may ethically contract with overseas nonlawyers to perform legal support services such as legal research, document review and drafting of pleadings or legal memoranda, according to a recent ethics opinion issued by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. In giving its seal of approval to a practice that is becoming increasingly common, the bar said that lawyers who outsource legal work must nonetheless follow strict ethical guidelines.
"A lawyer may ethically outsource legal support services overseas to a non-lawyer if the lawyer (a) rigorously supervises the non-lawyer, so as to avoid aiding the non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law and to ensure that the non-lawyer’s work contributes to the lawyer’s competent representation of the client; (b) preserves the client’s confidences and secrets when
outsourcing; (c) under the circumstances described in this Opinion, avoids conflicts of interest when outsourcing; (d) bills for outsourcing appropriately; and (e) under the circumstances described in this Opinion, obtains the client’s informed advance consent to outsourcing."
An alert issued yesterday by Lawyeringlaw.com, a professional responsibility site maintained by the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, said that the opinion requires attorneys to be diligent in supervising the outsourced work.
"The committee recognized the economic advantage businesses have obtained in outsourcing work overseas. Although some jurisdictions have held that any work performed by a non-lawyer under the supervision of an attorney is not the unauthorized practice of law, the committee did not go that far. It found proper supervision to be the key consideration. Attorneys must use their professional skill to set the scope of the outsourced work and review the completed work product to ensure quality.
This means, the alert said, "Attorneys cannot allow physical distance to relax their vigilance."
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 27, 2006 at 02:33 PM | Permalink
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