Monday, August 06, 2007

Florida Bar Ethics Opinion and ABANet's comments

Now, committees of the Florida Bar also issues an ethics opinion. Here's a piece on that and the relevant snippet.

Two committees of the Florida Bar have taken notice of the practice and have decided, so far, that legal outsourcing is acceptable under certain conditions. Reviewing documents, for example, is fine, but the Indian lawyers — who are licensed to practice law in India but not in Florida — are not permitted to give legal advice directly to clients here, says Lori Holcomb, director of the Florida Bar’s unlicensed practice of law department

Here's the piece on the ABA opinion. Some snippets:

The opinions maintain that foreign legal outsourcing should be subject to the same ethical requirements as domestic use of nonlawyer services, in particular targeting the following functions for the U.S. lawyer: Supervise the foreign lawyer’s work, preserve client confidences, avoid conflicts of interest, generally bill only for the direct cost of outsourcing, and obtain advance client consent in certain circumstances.

Foreign legal outsourcing “will expand exponentially because of discovery costs,” agrees Robert R. Simpson, Hartford, CT, Cochair of the Section’s Corporate Counsel Committee. He cites the new federal civil rules on electronic discovery and “sophisticated clients who see legal outsourcing as one vehicle to consider in keeping costs down” as driving demand for outsourcing. Law simply may be “a step behind the curve” of businesses that have set up call centers and technical support abroad, he notes.

Quality may be an issue now, but “as the services offering foreign legal outsourcing become more sophisticated and experienced, people will begin using them for more subjective functions,” predicts Simpson. He agrees, however, that law may be less readily amenable than other businesses to foreign outsourcing because of the “additional level of supervision that is required by lawyers. Lawyers are often poor managers. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is the problem. It is hard enough to manage people in your department,” he says.