Recently, the concept of private labeling has spread from the business world to legal research and brief writing. Solo lawyers are now sending legal work to private label attorneys who work in “virtual offices” unburdened by the high overhead costs of running an active legal practice. But is it ethical?
The American Bar Association has released two formal Opinions that support private label practices. ABA Opinions 00-420 and 08-451 provide that attorneys may ethically engage private label counsel, and that when billing the client a surchage may be added to the private label counsel’s attorney’s fee when the total sum is considered a fee for legal services and the entire amount is reasonable. Benefits include:
- the client receives a quality brief prepared by a skilled litigator and experienced appellate attorney;
- the attorney in the firm is able to devote his or her time to other fee-generating matters; and
- the firm is generally able to add a surcharge to the reasonable fee charged and thus profit from the work of the freelance attorney (see ABA Opinion 00-420).
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