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By Rebecca L. Ambrose
With clients becoming increasingly cost conscious, the amount of legal work being outsourced to offshore Legal Process Outsourcing ("LPO") providers is rising dramatically. However, lawyers should be aware of their obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct before taking advantage of these services.
Duty of Competence: Lawyers have a duty to provide their clients with competent representation regardless of whether they do the work themselves or outsource it.
Duty to Supervise: A lawyer outsourcing work to an offshore provider has a duty to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of both the LPO provider and the individuals working on the project comports with the lawyer's own professional obligations. While difficult when sending work overseas, there are some steps a lawyer can take to help ensure compliance:
Duty of Confidentiality: If the outsourced project requires the revelation of client confidential information, the client's informed consent should be obtained in advance. Of course, lawyers have a duty to safeguard from disclosure any information relating to the representation of a client. To help ensure compliance with this duty, a lawyer should:
Conflicts of Interest: It is not hard to imagine a scenario where an LPO provider has been retained to work on both sides of the same case. To ensure no conflicts exist, a lawyer should:
Fees: Absent an agreement with a client to the contrary, a lawyer may generally charge for only the actual cost of using an LPO provider plus any reasonable allocation of associated overhead costs. Such costs will likely be minimal or nonexistent when legal work is offshored. A lawyer may include a reasonable allocation for the cost of supervising the services if that cost is not already covered by legal fees.
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