Rule 3.1-2 of Ontario’s Rule of Professional Conduct (and similarly the Rules of Professional Conduct in other provinces), requires that: “A lawyer shall perform any legal services undertaken on a client's behalf to the standard of a competent lawyer.”
Rule 3.1-1 sets out a list of skills and attributes of a “competent lawyer” including:
- “communicating at all relevant stages of a matter in a timely and effective manner”;
- “performing all functions conscientiously, diligently, and in a timely and cost-effective manner”; and
- “recognizing limitations in one’s ability to handle a matter or some aspect of it, and taking steps accordingly to ensure the client is appropriately served”.
A lawyer’s ability to competently handle files may diminish when overextended with excessive legal work – putting the lawyer at risk of breaching the Rules of Professional Conduct. Busy law firms or sole practitioners can mitigate against potential ethical pitfalls by outsourcing to a qualified freelance lawyer if they become overextended with legal work and become unable to meet their client demands in a timely, effective, and cost-effective manner.
If proper procedures are followed, outsourcing work to a qualified freelance lawyer is one way to ensure that a hiring lawyer or hiring law firm is meeting its ethical obligations to its clients. By engaging the services of a freelance lawyer, the hiring lawyer increases efficiency and productivity while also reducing costs. This improves the overall quality of representation that the hiring lawyer provides to their clients!