D.C. Bar Green Lights eDiscovery Services in Ethics Opinion
The production of electronically stored information (ESI) in litigation has boomed in the last decade, mainly due to the slow but steady global switch from paper documentation to electronic data. As ESI is now part of almost every class action lawsuit and multidistrict litigation case, the courts and bar associations are only starting to issue eDiscovery rules and opinions as complications arise.
The D.C. Bar Association recently released Opinion 362 regarding non-lawyer ownership of companies that offer discovery services and the unauthorized practice of law. The bar association stated that non-lawyer owned service companies will not run afoul of the local rules if they follow some basic requirements:
- D.C. Bar Rule 49 governs who may practice law within the District, and that rule is applicable to service vendors who are physically within the District OR those who practice or advertise that they will service a project within the District.
- In-house attorneys at eDiscovery firms may handle administrative document review, but only lawyers with a D.C. bar membership with an attorney-client relationship may direct and supervise work.
- Vendors who have in-house attorneys that are not members of the D.C. bar cannot provide legal advice or hold themselves out as able to practice law in D.C.
The Committee recommends that applicable vendors should avoid making broad statements that could be construed as offering to practice law in the District, and they should state that their services are limited to the non-legal, administrative aspects of document review and discovery projects.
If you have a question regarding the D.C. ethics opinion or would like to hear more about the services our firm offers, call us at 888-313-4457 or review our eDiscovery services.