December 10, 2020 Articles

Ethical Implications When Outsourcing Legal Work

Outsourcing can pose potential ethical minefields.

By William E. Gericke and Thomas G. Wilkinson
The advent of COVID-19 has accelerated consideration of outsourcing various administrative services so as to streamline back-office functions.

The advent of COVID-19 has accelerated consideration of outsourcing various administrative services so as to streamline back-office functions.

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In streamlining their back-office functions to cut costs and comply with COVID-19 best practices, lawyers must be mindful that outsourcing can pose potential ethical minefields. By apprising themselves of applicable ethics rules, lawyers can confidently outsource legal and nonlegal services while creating a win-win scenario for themselves and their clients.

Background

“Outsourcing” generally refers to “the practice of taking a specific task or function previously performed within a firm or entity and, for reasons including cost and efficiency, having it performed by an outside service provider.” ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, Revised Proposal—Outsourcing (Sept. 19, 2001). In an era where lawyers and law firms seek to run “lean” as a way of keeping costs down, many practices find that outsourcing legal and nonlegal services once performed in-house by law firms can be a wise financial move. The advent of COVID-19—and accompanying social distancing and remote work requirements—has accelerated consideration of outsourcing various administrative services so as to streamline back-office functions.

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