The Ethics of Legal Back Office Outsourcing

The back office is a part of most law firms and typically involves tasks dedicated to running the firm itself. However, it is important to clarify that these jobs do not actually deal with providing legal advice to clients. But instead, they are tasks that are vital to the proper functioning of a firm, such as IT, accounting, or human resources. 

Yet, while outsourcing these back office jobs has provided firms with numerous benefits, such as freeing up their staff’s time to focus on core legal tasks, it is still essential that lawyers pay attention to the ethics of outsourcing back office services. 

female attorney sits at table and reviews documents

Avoid the Unauthorized Practice of Law

Law firms typically outsource back office processes and tasks to be more competitive, cost-effective, and efficient. However, firms who optimize on these services need to understand that there are ethical implications when a lawyer outsources its work, even if those services are only related to the firm’s marketing and advertising tasks or technology support.  

For these reasons, before a firm hires an outsourcing company to take on certain services, they need to make sure these companies understand the ethical rules of working with a law firm, including what the unauthorized practice of law means and what they need to do to avoid these violations. 

Adhere to a Duty of Disclosure/Communication

Before outsourcing any tasks, it is imperative that firms first verify whether disclosures need to be made to their clients regarding the use of non-lawyers outside the firm. 

If they are required, the firm needs to then get their client’s consent, especially if the outsourcing company will be receiving confidential and protected information.

Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of interest often comes up when an individual owes loyalty to two people who have conflicting economic or legal interests. As a result, if a law firm is entering into a service agreement with an outsourcing company, they need to make sure they define the limits of their firm’s duties so that any unwanted conflicts can be avoided in the future.

Provide Competent Representation

As a law firm, you are responsible for rendering competent legal services to clients. This means that even if you outsource legal or nonlegal support services, you will still bear ultimate responsibility for the work completed by these companies. 

That is why firms need to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of an outsourcing company is compatible with the firm’s own professional obligations.

Ensure Confidentiality and Security

Another important point to consider when outsourcing a law firm’s tasks and services to another company is confidentiality and security. For example, many outsourcing companies that handle information technology services may compile security reports and monitor the firm’s device usage. However, many lawyers often worry that with these types of services, the firm’s confidential information may be exposed. 

That is why before law firms hire an outsourcing company; they need to ensure these companies are willing to adhere to the strict ethical obligations that attorneys need to abide by regarding confidentiality and make sure that private information is not leaked. These law firms may also want to work closely with these outsourcing companies to ensure that ethical rules are not violated.

Bill Appropriately

Finally, the last ethical issue that lawyers need to watch out for when outsourcing back office legal services has to do with billing. 

Specifically, law firms need to ensure that they bill their clients appropriately for services performed by these non-lawyers.

Make Sure Your Ethical Obligations Are Met with Back Office Legal

Although these ethical considerations should not be taken likely, they should also not deter you from seeking help when it comes to your law firm. 

Fortunately, when you hire an experienced legal outsourcing company, such as Back Office Legal, to take on your back office functions and services, you can rest assured that the company will do everything it can to ensure the work you need done is completed correctly and that they stay in compliance with all the ethical rules and obligations that are required of your firm.

However, if you would like to learn more about our company and how we handle these ethical issues, contact Back Office Legal today for further details.

Recent Blogs & Resources

Law Firm Outsourcing vs. Insourcing (Hiring)

Marketing Essentials for Lawyers

Paralegal vs. Legal Assistant: What’s the Difference?