How To Talk To Your Clients About Freelancers

HowToTalkToClientsAboutFreelancersLawyers considering whether to bring in a freelance attorney may reasonably wonder: Is this something my client needs to know about? The short answer: Yes.

Although an early ABA ethics opinion suggested disclosure was not required for attorneys working under your direct supervision, more recent guidance, including 2012 amendments to the comments of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, makes clear that work with independent attorneys such as freelancers should ordinarily be disclosed to the client. Disclosure is always required if freelancers will receive confidential information, and clients must agree to any arrangement in which freelancers’ charges are billed to the client as legal fees rather than costs.

So when to talk about it?
Ideally when the attorney-client relationship starts. Your engagement letter already discusses fees, costs, and the scope of work. Try adding a paragraph allowing you to propose outsourcing in appropriate circumstances.

What to say? A few key points:

  • Once the case begins, you may see a chance to save the client time and money by working with a freelance attorney you trust
  • If so, you’ll identify the person, propose the project, and suggest a billing arrangement, all of which are subject to client approval
  • Once approved, you’ll disclose the parties’ names for conflict checking
    If no conflicts exist, you’ll disclose limited confidential information as needed to complete the project, which the freelance attorney will keep confidential
  • At all times you will supervise the freelance attorney’s work and take full responsibility for it

A little time going over this at the outset makes it easier to revisit the issue when the discovery requests hit the fan.

Have you ever wondered about hiring a freelance attorney for a client’s project, but then…didn’t? Please tell us in the comments—what held you back?

Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal judges; a legal writing teacher at NYU Law, William Mitchell College of Law, and the University of Minnesota Law School; and a sole practitioner and freelancer in Minnesota… MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN Posts

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