Is it ethical to “outsource” brief-writing and research?
If you are a Virginia-licensed attorney, Legal Ethics Opinion 1850 addresses key ethical considerations that may arise in outsourcing arrangements. In summary, the opinion concludes that outsourcing of work typically done by lawyers can be ethical, provided that the attorneys involved take appropriate steps to protect clients’ interests:
A lawyer may ethically outsource legal support services to a nonlawyer who is not associated with the firm or working under the direct supervision of a lawyer in the firm if the lawyer (1) rigorously supervises the nonlawyer so as to avoid aiding the nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law and ensuring that the nonlawyer’s work meets the lawyer’s requirements of competency, (2) preserves the client’s confidences, (3) bills for the services appropriately, and (4) obtains the client’s informed advance consent to outsourcing the work.
I provide research and drafting assistance in the “non-lawyer” capacity described in the above excerpt. I encourage you to review LEO 1850 in full, with particular attention to Scenario 2(b). Please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com to discuss your questions or concerns about confidentiality and potential conflicts.
NOTE: I offer writing assistance only to active members of the Virginia State Bar in good standing. I don’t offer legal services or advice directly to their clients, to foreign attorneys, or to other members of the public. I cannot assist parties who are representing themselves in a legal dispute.
How quickly can you produce a draft?
To assist you in your planning, my general estimate for a draft brief with 20+ pages of substantive writing is seven calendar days, with allowances for scope and complexity of the facts and issues involved. If your project requires research, I’ll determine a specific proposed timeline and cost after an initial conference with you as to the specific legal issues to be addressed.
What materials do you need for an original draft?
Helpful materials: Examples or templates of your prior work (or other work you admire).
Required materials for a legal product: (1) All pleadings and other relevant filings in the case. (2) Any record you may wish to use as an exhibit. (3) Any other facts necessary to ensure that the product is accurate, thorough, and otherwise ethical.