Ethics of Outsourcing

All lawyers should take their ethical obligations seriously.

In Ohio, the steps that must ethically be taken have been clearly stated by the Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, in Opinion 2009-6.  Read the full opinion here:

The following should be considered when outsourcing a particular project:

1.  Confidentiality

Karin, and those with whom she works, treats all information provided as confidential to the same extent as if Karin had a direct attorney-client relationship with the client and the client provided the information directly to her.

2.  Competence

The Ohio Opinion 2009-6 emphasizes that the hiring lawyer must ensure that the outsourcing attorney be competent.  A lawyer outsourcing work on a project-basis to another lawyer must give “due diligence as to the qualifications and reputation of those to whom services are outsourced and as to whether the requested outsourced services will be provided with competence and diligence as required by Prof. Cond. Rules 1.1 and 1.3, confidences will be protected as required by Prof. Cond. Rule 1.6, and conflicts of interest will be avoided as required by Prof. Cond. Rules 1.7, 1.9, and 1.10.”

ABA Formal Opinion 08-451 states, in part: “There is nothing unethical about a lawyer outsourcing legal and nonlegal services, provided the outsourcing lawyer renders legal services to the client with the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” According to the ABA, “[t]he challenge for an outsourcing lawyer is … to ensure that tasks are delegated to individuals who are competent to perform them, and then to oversee the execution of the project adequately and appropriately.”

With 10 years of experience in research and writing, appellate practice, and motion practice, you can be assured that Karin will competently handle your projects.

Read Formal Opinion 08-451 in full here:

3.  Informing the Client

The client’s informed consent must be obtained before outsourcing legal work to a contract attorney, for two important reasons:  Protecting confidentiality, and the rule governing division of fees.

Ohio requires more disclosure than ABA Formal Opinion 08-451 requires with respect to fees.  Opinion 2009-6 states:

“Pursuant to Prof. Cond. Rules 1.5(a) and 1.5(b), a lawyer is required to establish fees and expenses that are reasonable, not excessive, and to communicate to the client the basis or rate of the fee and expenses; these requirements apply to legal and support services outsourced domestically or abroad.  The decision as to whether to bill a client for outsourced services as part of the legal fee or as an expense is left to a lawyer’s exercise of professional judgment, but in either instance, if any amount beyond cost is added, it must be reasonable, such as a reasonable amount to cover a lawyer’s supervision of the outsourced services.”

A lawyer must also ensure that the lawyer hired will protect the confidentiality of the client.  The client must be given informed consent of the identity of the outsourced lawyer, and must consent to sharing confidential information.