Wednesday, September 16, 2009

San Diego Bar Opinion: Another testimonial in favour of legal outsourcing and offshoring

After the New York State Bar Opinion in 1996, San Diego Bar Opinion comes as further confirmation to the ongoing legal outsourcing and offshoring in the legal domain. This opinion came as a result of an examination of a hypothetical case wherein a prosecutor in California has been appointed to defend an intellectual property dispute. This Counsel has limited experience in dealing with the regular work related to the dispute such as correspondence, research. The counsel decides to offshore its work to low tariff destinations like India. The question that was raised: “But the lawyer to assist in the practice of law is not permitted, in violation of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-300, when he or she uses the services of a company subcontracted to carry out research and writing services on behalf of a client?” Consequently it became imperative to analyze whether provider of offshore legal services fall under the purview of “unauthorized practice of law”. The Opinion in response to this issue made a clear statement: “No, the service provided by the foreign supplier does not qualify for the “practice of law,” as defined by the rules of professional conduct”. This statement comes with an accompanying clause that designated lawyer should maintain both control and responsibility of the work outsourced. The client in this case can be informed about the provision if the client expects the case to be done entirely by the lawyer.

The clients are now in a stage where they have started understanding the forces of globalization working in the legal domain. They are getting comfortable with the idea of the work being offshored provided quality and confidentiality is maintained. The lawyer in this scenario needs to have his/ her own list of checks and balances when it comes to deciding the offshore service provider. The providers with domain expertise, pedigree and stability are in a better position to mitigate any conflicts of interest and deliver services that comply with quality standards.

San Diego Bar Opinion is another milestone in the path of legal offshoring business indicative of growth and profits. The question is not whether to go for legal offshoring but to think of ways to give 100% quality to the client.