Outsourcing to a Contract Attorney and the Duty of Confidentiality – Ethical Series, Part 5

Outsourcing to a Contract Attorney and the Duty of Confidentiality – Ethical Series, Part 5-0

Outsourcing to a Contract Attorney and the Duty of Confidentiality – Ethical Series, Part 5

Written by Desiree Nordstrom.

A question often arises regarding the ethical duty of confidentiality when a law firm turns over confidential client information in conjunction with hiring a contract attorney.

American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 1.6 states:

Confidentiality of Information (a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).

This ethical requirement extends to all lawyers, even a contract attorney brought in to assist on a law firm’s case.

The Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievance and Discipline released an opinion that discusses the outsourcing of legal contract work and the duty of confidentiality. The Ohio Opinion states that, “Client confidentiality is a hallmark of the attorney client relationship.” [1] Each individual state has ethical rules that an attorney adheres to. Each state has rules regarding the confidentiality of clients’ information. For example, the New York State unified Court System’s Rules of Professional Conduct at Rule 1.6 requires a lawyer to preserve “confidential information” that consists of “information gained during or relating to the representation of a client, whatever its source, that is (a) protected by the attorney-client privilege, (b) likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client if disclosed, or (c) information that the client has requested by kept confidential.”

The MRPC Rule 1.6(a) and local rules like the NY rule above compel freelance attorneys to ensure that client information is kept confidential. Overflow Legal Network adds another layer of protection in addition to local ethical requirements of our freelance attorneys by contractually obligating each freelancer to keep law firms’ clients’ information confidential. Our freelance attorneys bear the burden of non-disclosure regarding secrets learned in the course of representation.

An example of the breach of this duty was detailed in a San Diego Opinion that involved an outsourced project that was contracted to workers in India. [2] There, the subcontractor threatened to post confidential patient records on the Internet unless the UC San Francisco Medical Center retrieved money owed to the subcontractor from a middleman. It is important to note that other countries do not have the same ethical requirements regarding the duty of confidentiality. As such, there is a risk in outsourcing to LPO (Law Process Outsourcing) companies outside of the United States.

To read more articles in our Ethics Series, click here, here, here, here, and here.


[1] The Supreme Court of Ohio, Opinion 2009-6, August 2009, http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/Boards/BOC/Advisory_Opinions/2009/op_09-006.doc.

[2] The San Diego County Bar Association Ethics Opinion 2007-1. https://www.sdcba.org/index.cfm?Pg=ethicsopinion07-1.


Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply

© Overflow Legal Network LLC. All Rights Reserved.