Friday, August 29, 2008

Going of Mohammed to the Mountain: ABA's Guidelines on using Legal Process Outsourcing

"A lawyer may outsource legal or nonlegal support services provided the lawyer remains ultimately responsible for rendering competent legal services to the client...", so begins the ethics opinion by the AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION STANDING COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY. In a report titled, "Lawyer’s Obligations When Outsourcing Legal and Nonlegal Support Services", the committe outlines, in a soft tone, the guidelines on how to use the now maturing industry of Legal Process Outsourcing. Some highlights, most of those have been previously discussed on this blog, are:

- Do your diligence on the vendor

1. Meet the offshore lawyers who will be working for you

2. Don't just be impressed by claims of client confidentiality, security and "everything world-class" but actually exert to verify the claims

- Educate and convince yourself on the judicial enforcement procedures of the jurisdiction of the vendor's location. If you can't enforce the confidentialy, conflict-check contracts or service-level agreements, they practically don't mean much. It may be an idea to sign such contracts and agreements with a US based entity representing the vendor. In other words, wholly India based vendors may be a strict no-no.

- Supervise, supervise, supervise the offshored entity. If it bears your signature, its yours - doesn't matter if you got it drafted in Jinxmagistan

- Inform your client, rather obtain their formal consent, if you are going to be using offshoring for their work

- If you are passing on the costs of using an offshore vendor to the client as disbursement, no markup costs are allowed - but you are still required to supervise

This blog will conduct interviews with several vendors to get their opinion and the evolution in the landscape of US legal services. Watch this space!