These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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LEO NumTopicsSummary

8-Bills and Fees

28-Law Firm Staff

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

Lawyers frequently outsource legal and non­ legal support services to lawyers and non-lawyers. Examples include “reproduction of materials, database creation, conducting legal research, case and litigation management, drafting legal memoranda or briefs, reviewing discovery materials, conducting patent searches, and drafting contracts” (but do not include a scenario in which a lawyer “is working under the direct supervision of lawyers in the firm and has full access to information about the firm’s clients, and therefore is associated with the firm”). Lawyers who engage in such outsourcing must comply with four duties. First, such lawyers must “exercise due diligence in the selection of lawyers or nonlawyers,” must take reasonable steps to assure that they comply with the lawyers’ ethical rules, must review their work “on an ongoing basis,” and must “remain ultimately responsible for [their] conduct and work product.” Lawyers arranging for overseas outsourcing “should” enter into a written agreement confirming these steps. Second, lawyers who hire “a temporary lawyer to work on a client’s matter” must advise the client. Similarly, such lawyers “must obtain informed consent from the client if the lawyer is outsourcing legal work to a lawyer or nonlawyer who is not associated with or working under the direct supervision of a lawyer in the firm that the client retained, even if no confidential information is being shared outside of the firm.” Third, lawyers “must secure the client’s consent in advance” if they will share “confidential client information” with a lawyer or non-lawyer who is not “associated with the firm nor directly supervised” by a firm lawyer. Lawyers should obtain written confidentiality agreements, and “should also ask the nonlawyer whether he or she is performing services for any parties adverse to the lawyer’s client.” Fourth, lawyers charging clients for outsourced work as a disbursement must disclose any mark-up. Under ABA LEO 379 (12/6/93), lawyers need not disclose any mark-up or staffing agency fee if they outsource to lawyers or non-lawyers working “under the direct supervision of the lawyer such that they are considered ‘associated’ with the firm.”

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn