Mindful Ethics:
Professional Responsibility for
Lawyers in the Digital Age

Class Four
September 5, 2017
Outsourcing Everything But Your License


Having been asked to leave the firm, Pedro considers various options and decides to go solo and hang out his shingle. He has a few clients who appreciate the reduced fees and extra attention. Mindy, a loyal friend through it all, is excited for Pedro and remains in close contact with him.  

Pedro continues to share his career thoughts and feelings on his blog and others often join the discussion. The blog continues to be a source of support and encouragement for Pedro in his new venture. However, support and encouragement do not pay the bills, so Pedro commits himself to increasing his book of business.

Friends begin to look to Pedro for help with small matters and old friendships begin to lead to promising clients. One day while Pedro is having lunch with Derrick, a college roommate and good friend, Derrick mentions that his wife, Samantha, has decided to start her own business.  She needs assistance with forming a corporation and will need representation with other legal matters. Pedro excitedly offers to help, noting that he had drafted and filed incorporation documents while servicing some of the firm’s smaller clients.  He meets with Samantha and she becomes his first corporate client. He incorporates her company and she calls him regularly for basic legal advice.

Although Pedro feels fortunate that his friends and colleagues are sending him business, he is also frustrated because of the missed opportunities for additional business; he has turned away potential clients  because he felt that the work was over his head.  He begins to take CLE classes to learn new areas of the law hoping that he will not have to turn anyone else away. 

One day someone from his former firm, remembering that Pedro worked on a big patent case, refers a client to Pedro because the firm has a conflict. The client has a new matter that is likely to be huge.  

This is a great opportunity for Pedro; however, he really doesn’t know much about patent law and he does not have any staff to assist him. That big case is just a blur now and most of the work he did was not substantive in nature. Pedro has signed up for a  solo practitioner “listserv” named MYSHINGLE and asks the group whether he should accept the case. An attorney responds, “Are you serious?  You can figure out how to handle any case.  Why would you throw away all that money?”

Pedro
posts his dilemma on his blog, “P.R. Blawg” and someone suggests that Pedro use outsourcing to solve his problem. Pedro does some research and learns that there is a company in India that can do any aspect of a case for you. He reads a testimonial about the company and is sold.  He is ecstatic!  Pedro accepts the client’s case and outsources much of the legal work to LegalAssist, the company in India.  

LegalAssist conducts the necessary research and prepares the pleadings.  Pedro studies the  motion for summary judgment provided by LegalAssist and is able to win the case for the client.  Pedro bills the client at Pedro’s regular rate, which is much less than the large firm, and the client is thrilled.  Pedro has his overhead covered and has learned another way to use the digital age to succeed.

Questions

Please answer concisely, but completely and include references to the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct, Ethics Opinions and the assigned reading.

1. How do the legal ethics rules define competence in connection with accepting a case in an area of law that is new to you?

2. What legal ethics rules come into play when Pedro uses his blog and the listserv to discuss his cases and seek help from colleagues? Do you think that Pedro crosses any ethical lines when he blogs or posts on the listserv?

3. Outsourcing implicates many of the fundamental legal ethics rules. Create a list of the relevant rules and briefly state how each rule applies to outsourcing and whether you think Pedro’s conduct complied with the rule.