Providing Ethical Online Legal Services to Your ClientsLegal Compliance Resource
March 21, 2013 — 946 views
There are a lot of law firms today, who are slowly recognizing the need and importance of extending their brand or services over the Internet. Delivery of legal services online is definitely beneficial for both service providers and their clients. The law firms are coming up with online marketplaces, online question answers portals, and virtual offices to make this task simpler and for the service to prove beneficial. Even though it is hard to find the flaws in these legal services instantly, taking a deeper look might unveil something unpleasant.
The Ethical Issues Surrounding the Legal Services
There are a lot of issues, found these days, with ethics in the delivery of legal services online. These mainly could be identified as:
Unauthorized Law Practice - According to the code of conduct specified in most states, a lawyer can resort to unauthorized practice if he is providing legal service where he is not admitted to or where he is not authorized to practice. It could even arise if one is assisting a non-lawyer in conducting the law practice. Another question that can arise here is whether the non-lawyer is assisting the vendor in practicing law during document preparation, while he is providing legal service to the law firm. In many states, the paralegals have no authority to provide any legal services.
Unreasonable Fees - The lawyers in most cases incur expenses because they have to serve clients. This could be for renting an office, the telephone costs, or staff salaries. But this does not give the lawyer an excuse to charge exorbitant prices from their clients. These costs should not be computed as a part of the clients’ fee.
Confidentiality - A lawyer by law should never breach his/her obligation in maintaining the client's confidentiality at the time of using an online application form to note the details of their clients. As per the rule of the professional conduct, the lawyers are expected to be highly confidential while maintaining the clients’ details.
Working against any of the above could be deviating from the ethics that have been set. The repercussions against this could be severe and when they go unnoticed, they may result in negative consequences later.
Importance of Ethics While Delivering Legal Services Online
To remain ethically compliant while providing legal services to your clients, you should have an understanding about how the ethics and rules of professional responsibility hold well in different kinds of online environments. This covers virtual law firms or participating in online marketplaces and law firms. The Attorney must possess ethical awareness and know the benefits and risks that are associated while using the technical tools and while taking part in the online forums for legal services.
They should also have an understanding about which online technologies they will have to use the services on, such that ethical compliance is promoted. Conducting due diligence and maintaining a framework in order to comply with the rules and code of conduct of professional responsibility is very important for these firms to thrive in the long run.