As many of you are already aware, the ABA's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released an ethics opinion on legal outsourcing this week.
That report is now public on the ABA website thanks to some keen blogger griping by our Slaw friend Ron Friedmann. The key points, as noted by Ron, were:
- “U.S. lawyers are free to outsource legal work, including to lawyers or nonlawyers outside the country, if they adhere to ethics rules requiring competence, supervision, protection of confidential information, reasonable fees and not assisting unauthorized practice of law.”
- “Outsourcing can reduce client costs and enable small firms to provide labor intensive services such as large, discovery intense litigation, even though the firms might not maintain sufficient ongoing staff to handle the work, according to a new ethics opinion issued today.”
- “Depending on the level of supervision contemplated by the outsourcing lawyer, it might be necessary to obtain informed client consent before engaging outside assistance."
None of these items are all that new. Just a bit of confirmation to what I think most considered common sense. But where I would like to point your attention is to Lisa Solomon's post from yesterday that reminds us of a much broader concept of outsourcing, and how it's not just for sending work overseas. Legal outsourcing also applies to the Contract Lawyer down the street!
I tend to believe we're only seeing the beginnings of the LPO models to come. Outsource to India? Sure, but what about outsourcing to Canada (when and) if our dollar ever drops again? It wasn't so long ago that US firms or businesses could have had a 25-30% fee discount by engaging lawyers north of the border.
Here's another one… Back when I posted about the concept of Virtual Law Offices, I mentioned the premise of a metropolis-hinterland approach to lawyering. Now, what if rather than building these social classes of lawyers within law firms, that a firm took a complete outsourcing approach? They retained an entire team of contract lawyers to execute each element of the required services. Each contracted lawyer would be an expert in a tightly defined niche, and firms could cherry-pick from a team of experts for each engagement. The effect on solos and small firms, especially those with specialized skill sets, could be huge.
All I can say is get ready folks, this ride's only started. :)