/ September 8, 2008

Lawsuit Against Legal Outsourcing Fizzles Out…

This month the American Bar Association released Ethics Opinion 08-451, which approves the practice of legal outsourcing from American firms to lawyers abroad, provided that both attorney client privilege and privacy are protected in the process. Many hailed the ABA’s embrace of outsourcing as a way to legal fees and empower smaller firms.

Some legal professionals, however, are not too thrilled about the ABA’s implicit endorsement of this growing industry. Some deride the practice in the traditional political terminology, slandering it as anti-American and traitorous. American contract lawyers lead the opposition, arguing that outsourcing will drive down pay and deprive an ever-growing army of law school graduates of work. Finally, some believe that the transfer of sensitive information between firms in different countries risks a security breach. Joseph Hennessey, a Maryland lawyer, filed suit in May against Acumen Legal Services, an Indian legal processing outsourcer, alleging that confidential information transferred overseas would be subject to review by the federal government during routine surveillance. But, Hennessey’s complaint shied away from specifics, naming no victims; instead, he sought a court injunction against legal outsourcing generally. He voluntarily withdrew the suit last week, after Acumen filed a motion to dismiss.
Hennessey is confident that further research will pinpoint instances where private documents, such as medical records, have been inspected by the government. Once he has specific plaintiffs he says he will bring the matter up in court once more. For the time being, Acumen’s lawyers argue that Hennessey’s challenge is just conjecture, and that any court injunction against legal outsourcing would unfairly punish companies guilty of no wrongdoing.

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