Formal Ethics Opinion by North Carolina State Bar Association
Opinion rules that a lawyer may outsource limited legal support services to a foreign lawyer or a nonlawyer (collectively “foreign assistants”) provided the lawyer properly selects and supervises the foreign assistants, ensures the preservation of client confidences, avoids conflicts of interests, discloses the outsourcing, and obtains the client’s advanced informed consent.
The Ethics Committee has previously determined that a lawyer may use nonlawyer assistants in his or her practice, and that the assistants do not have to be employees of the lawyer’s firm or physically present in the lawyer’s office. See, e.g., RPC 70, RPC 216, 99 FEO 6, 2002 FEO 9. The previous opinions emphasize that the lawyer’s use of nonlawyer assistants must comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. Generally, the ethical considerations when a lawyer uses foreign assistants are similar to the considerations that arise when a lawyer uses the services of any nonlawyer assistant.
Pursuant to RPC 216, a lawyer has a duty under the Rules of Professional Conduct to take reasonable steps to ascertain that a nonlawyer assistant is competent; to provide the nonlawyer assistant with appropriate supervision and instruction; and to continue to use the lawyer’s own independent professional judgment, competence, and personal knowledge in the representation of the client. See also Rule 1.1, Rule 5.3, Rule 5.5. The opinion further states that the lawyer’s duty to provide competent representation mandates that the lawyer be responsible for the work product of nonlawyer assistants. See also Rule 5.3...Read More