Integrating Legal Process Outsourcing into Your FirmLegal Compliance Resource
November 26, 2012 — 922 views
Integrating Legal Process Outsourcing into Your Firm
While talk of business outsourcing manufacturing jobs to other countries has been an ongoing point of contention in the political arena, legal process outsourcing, or LPO, has been around for decades, originating in the 1950’s and restricted at that time to patent services. Legal process outsourcing refers to the practice of getting support services from an outside legal firm or separate legal support services company, often existing outside of the United States. Traditionally, the more time-consuming and burdensome tasks within a law firm are delegated to paralegals and interns within the law firm. A primary advantage to outsourcing some or all of these tasks is cost-management.
Legal process outsourcing involves a mix of domestic outsourcing, offshore outsourcing to third-party entities, and outsourcing to overseas employees of the same law firm, all of which have shown significant cost-savings. Larger corporate and international law firms in particular have led the way in the expanding world of legal service outsourcing, as the corporate backers and employers pressure their legal teams and legal departments to find more and more ways to cut costs while still maintaining the same level of legal services.
A major concern with legal process outsourcing is client confidentiality. The possibility of a break in attorney-client privilege is a very real concern as soon as a client’s information is given to a third party. Bar associations nationwide have weighed in on this ethical consideration, as well as other related issues, and have deemed that outsourcing does not constitute an ethics violation as long as certain conditions are met. Among these conditions is the requirement that the client be informed when aspects of his or her case are being outsourced and that the law firm doing the outsourcing be responsible for overseeing the people that are doing the outsourced work. Technically, attorney-client privilege is gone once the outsourcing occurs, but it is determined to be ethically sound as long as the client agrees with the arrangement.
Most of the works being outsourced initially were tasks performed by clerks and other lower-wage professionals within the firm. However, as law firms get more comfortable with outsourcing, the trend has been to move to outsourcing higher functions such as those normally done by technicians and even the lawyers within the firm, whether associates or partners. Other than face-to-face situations such as meetings with clients and court appearances, all other legal processes are becoming fair game for outsourcing.