Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Legal Outsourcing a Threat?

The ABA Journal came out with an article today, Ethics 20/20 Commission Releases Draft Report on Outsourcing, Seeks Feeback, discussing the reports from the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 regarding the ethics of legal outsourcing.  According to the article, the Commission is particularly sensitive to the current employment market for lawyers and the economic hardships faced by those lawyers seeking jobs, especially young lawyers.  The article also states that some consider legal outsourcing to be a threat:
Outsourcing has been a hot-button issue for some who view it as a threat to employment prospects for lawyers during the recession, even though the discussion draft notes that most outsourced legal work goes to lawyers or support services in the United States rather than overseas.
Some may view legal outsourcing to overseas attorneys as a threat to the attorneys here in the United States since firms opt to outsource legal work in lieu of hiring a full-time U.S. licensed attorney.  During a down economy, it is difficult for all lawyers in the United States to obtain jobs, and outsourcing legal work overseas exacerbates this issue for attorneys here.  But do people also view freelance attorneys, such as the attorneys in Montage Legal Group's network, as a threat?

While some may consider Montage Legal Group attorneys to technically fit under the category of “legal outsourcing,” the attorneys in Montage Legal Group's network actually play a role in creating employment opportunities for attorneys seeking full-time employment, as well to attorneys seeking part-time legal work.  Specifically, the majority of Montage Legal Group's attorneys have voluntarily left large law firms, arguably “freeing spots” for other attorneys who desire full time work at those firms.  Montage Legal Group attorneys are not seeking full-time jobs in law firms, but instead prefer to work on a part-time or project basis.  While this arrangement works for Montage Legal Group attorneys, many attorneys desire full-time work with a more stable source of income.  Further, Montage Legal Group's attorneys assist small and large law firms (many of which are facing the same consequences of a down economy) in meeting their clients' needs and in growing their businesses, without taking the economic risk of hiring an employee they may be unable to support.  Success to Montage Legal Group's law firm clients equates to future and current full-time employment potential for other attorneys.

The discussion draft of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 also addresses ethics issues that law firms should take into account when they outsource work to lawyers and non-lawyers in the United States or overseas.  The ABA article confirms that the draft “contains no dramatic changes in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct to account for the growing use of outsourcing by U.S. firms” but also states that the draft “does set forth comments to three model rules recognizing that lawyers may outsource work as long as they take reasonable steps to assure that the work is performed in accordance with ethics standards for U.S. lawyers.”

In Formal Ethics Opinion 08-451 (issued Aug. 5, 2008), the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility concluded that “There is nothing unethical about a lawyer outsourcing legal and nonlegal services, provided the outsourcing lawyer renders legal services to the client with the ‘legal skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation’ ” under Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules. “The challenge for an outsourcing lawyer is, therefore, to ensure that tasks are delegated to individuals who are competent to perform them,” states the opinion, “and then to oversee the execution of the project adequately and appropriately.”

Check back to our blog for an in-depth analysis of the ethical rules pertaining to both firms and contract/freelance attorneys.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gen Y - The Future of Juries

Many of us can’t live without our smart phones. Our phones are our portals to our businesses, personal lives, and the world as a whole through email accounts, social network connections, and the internet – all at our fingertips and available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The Honorable Linda Marks of the Orange County Superior Court recently presented an excellent CLE hosted by the Orange County Women Lawyers Association. Judge Marks thoughtfully offered her observations regarding recent changes in juror voir dire due to rapidly changing technology and Gen Y joining the jury pool.

By way of background, Gen Y is the name given to those born after 1985. They are proficient in, and dependent on, social media (smart phones, the internet, and texting). For them, it would be unthinkable to leave the house without their phone/email/internet/texting. They are constantly in touch with their friends.

According to Judge Marks, Gen Y presents two unique issues with jury selection: (1) capturing their attention in a way that makes sense to them given their constant access to information; and (2) potential issues with juror misconduct.

Gen Y was born into an age filled with unlimited information. They are, by and large, comfortable with and dependent on the internet and other technology for easy access to unlimited information in real time. Gen Y are constantly exposed to multiple sides of every story via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other websites. They also grew up exposed to major scandals of all kinds, especially involving the government and large companies – Monica Lewinsky, Enron, Madoff, oil spills, and seemingly endless political and economic stories of corruption. Its not surprising that Gen Y doesn’t have much trust for the system, including if not especially, attorneys and the judicial system.

Judge Marks advises that attorneys Google their clients and other parties, as well as themselves, before trial to be aware of the public information that may affect the jurors. Even though potential jurors are advised during voir dire that they are not to seek out information regarding the case or the parties, many jurors may be unable to resist the temptation of just one quick Google search. Attorneys who elect to keep Gen Y jurors might consider addressing weaknesses in their case early and often, as Gen Y tends to view an attorney avoiding an issue with suspicion.

Technology also presents increased concerns for juror misconduct, starting immediately during voir dire. Because potential jurors, especially Gen Y, are in constant contact with friends and the outside world via texting and the internet (which is conveniently located in their pocket smart phone), they face the possibility of misconduct or inadvertent juror tampering 24 hours a day. Judge Marks suggests admonishing potential jurors immediately during void dire, and that attorneys seek assistance from the judge regarding additional guidelines for jurors to reduce these risks.

Overall, Judge Marks views Gen Y jurors as unpredictable and risky. But like it or not, Gen Y is the up and coming pool of potential jurors, and attorneys need to take the necessary steps to reach these jurors, embrace technology, and get comfortable with trying cases in the face of constant and unlimited information. Gen Y isn’t going anywhere, and besides, if attorneys are nervous about Gen Y, we had all better fasten our seatbelts for the jury pool up next!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Second Episode of "So You Want to Go to Law School"

The second episode of "So You Want to Go to Law School" is up on The Corner.  This week, Carrie-Ann comes face-to-face with her new nemesis, the diabolical Professor Walker, and battle lines are drawn.  Thank you dwkazzie (@RBSHoo) for the great videos!

Click here to watch the video: So You Want to Go to Law School - The Series (Episode 2)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marketing Your Freelance Practice for Free

For those attorneys out there who are thinking about going out on their own – either as freelance/contract attorneys or solo practitioners – but are not sure how they will be able to afford the marketing costs, take a look at the recent blog post by Dawn Berryman on Hybrid Mom: 5 FREE Necessities for Your 2011 Marketing Plan. The article gives five simple marketing tips that can benefit new solo lawyers, without costing anything. Check out the full article when you get a chance, but here’s a quick summary:

1. Search Engine Optimization - By writing content-rich, relevant copy for your blog and/or website, you can increase your SEO for free.

2. Social Media - Connect with potential business partners, future customers or even future employees on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.

3. E-news: There are several sites that offer free e-newsletter services, allowing you to update your clients and potential clients once a month.

4. Media Relations: Although there are a few tricks and formatting rules to press release writing, it isn’t rocket science. With a little research and a little practice; you can do it, too.

5. Real-life Networking: Don’t forget about face-to-face marketing!

As you can see, it doesn't have to cost anything to market your own law firm!

Dawn Berryman is the founder of Market Mommy, an online marketing resource for mom business owners. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University. She has worked in the marketing and communications field for the past eight years. She and her husband reside in rural Ohio with their two pre-school aged children.