Ethical Risks of Offshore Outsourcing of Legal Services

Avoiding Malpractice Liability and Ethics Violations

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Course Materials


Law firms and corporations routinely outsource legal work to India and other foreign countries, although concerns about confidentiality and conflicts of interest abound.

Major law firms are using foreign-based lawyers for routine tasks. Fortune 500 corporations have even established in-house law departments in India, and GE outsources $3 million a year in legal work there. By 2015, it is estimated that $5.8 billion in legal services will be outsourced to India.

New York and California local bar associations and the Florida State Bar have recently published opinions on offshore outsourcing of legal work; however, many ethical concerns linger.

Listen as our panel of legal ethics specialists discusses the potential ethical pitfalls of outsourcing and provides their insights and best practices to avoid malpractice liability and ethics violations while engaged in legal outsourcing.



  1. Ethical considerations for offshore outsourcing
    1. Duty to supervise
    2. Attorney–client privilege
    3. Confidentiality
    4. Conflicts of interest
    5. Unauthorized practice of law
    6. Privacy/data security
    7. Ethics opinions
      1. New York City bar
      2. San Diego County bar
      3. Los Angeles County bar
      4. Florida state bar
  2. Best practices to avoid malpractice liability and ethics violations
    1. Obtain client consent to outsource
    2. Get reliable referral of law firm/lawyer/outsourcing firm
    3. Supervise contract workers
    4. Check for conflicts of interest
    5. Maintain client confidences
    6. Ensure that contract workers have tight security measures to protect confidential data
    7. Disclose markups on pay to foreign attorneys
    8. Incorporate ethical expectations in outsourcing contract


The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • How have bar opinions dealt with the confidentiality and privacy concerns arising from offshore outsourcing?
  • Are non-U.S. lawyers handling U.S. cases engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?
  • What protections can firms and corporations put in place to avoid liability for outsourcing?


Michael P. Downey
Michael P. Downey
Hinshaw & Culbertson

He helps law firms comply with their legal and ethical obligations and advises attorneys on avoiding malpractice claims...  |  Read More

David R. Cohen
David R. Cohen

K&L Gates

He concentrates in e-discovery issues, technology and intellectual property litigation, insurance coverage, real estate...  |  Read More

Andrew I. Dilworth
Andrew I. Dilworth

Cooper White & Cooper

He concentrates in the areas of general business litigation, criminal defense, and professional responsibility. He has...  |  Read More

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