Written by Desiree Nordstrom.
Law firms must consider the ethical ramifications that are actuated when they contract with a freelance attorney.
The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) begin with Rule 1.1 for good reason: Competence. Every client expects their attorney to be competent and to produce competent work. It states:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
Additionally, in Comment  to Model Rule 1.1 it states in part:
When using the services of nonfirm lawyers in providing legal services to a client, a lawyer also must reasonably conclude that such services meet the standard of competence under this Rule.
It is in the best interest of Law firms to hire only skilled contract attorneys with the appropriate experience required to perform the legal work needed.
When there is a relationship between a law firm and a freelance attorney, a supervising attorney usually is assigned to work directly with the freelancer and maintain responsibility for the quality of the freelancer’s work, as well as for the content of the work. This requires the supervising attorney to have knowledge and expertise sufficient enough to independently judge the quality of the work product. The supervising attorney cannot rely on the freelance attorney’s personal evaluation of their own work, because the hiring law firm ultimately is responsible to the client for proficient and competent work. The firm must retain responsibility for the work product in order to ensure compliance with this duty.
As always, each state has its own particular rules of conduct. A hiring law firm always should consult its local State Bar Acts and Rules of Professional Conduct for applicable rules in its jurisdiction.