Opinions of General Counsel, 072021 ALBJ, Vol. 82 No. 4 Pg. 284 (July, 2021)

AuthorRoman A. Shaul
PositionVol. 82 4 Pg. 284


No. Vol. 82 No. 4 Pg. 284

Alabama Bar Lawyer

July, 2021

Roman A. Shaul

Ethical Propriety of Using Temporary Lawyers


Under what conditions may a law firm employ a temporary lawyer? May a staffing agency act as a recruiter or agent ("agency" or "placement agency") to assist law firms and sole practitioners in locating and hiring qualified temporary or contract lawyers?


Law firms may utilize the services of a temporary lawyer, and a lawyer may participate in an arrangement with a temporary attorney staffing agency so long as: (1) the temporary lawyer and hiring law firm comply with all applicable conflict of interest requirements; (2) the temporary lawyer safeguards all confidential client information; (3) the client is informed that a temporary lawyer will be or has been hired to work on their case and the client consents; (4) the staffing agency and temporary lawyer do not split legal fees; and (5) the temporary lawyer and hiring law firm abide by all other provisions of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct.


In researching this issue, it appears to the Disciplinary Commission that every state or national ethics organization, including the ABA, that has addressed the issue of temporary lawyers and temporary lawyer staffing agencies has authorized their use by law firms. However, in authorizing their use, each organization has done so under varying restrictions and conditions. While generally approving the use of temporary lawyers and staffing agencies, the Disciplinary Commission finds it necessary to place its own restrictions and conditions on the practice. As such, this opinion attempts to address certain ethical issues facing the temporary lawyer, the hiring law firm, and the temporary lawyer staffing agency. While this opinion addresses some of the more pressing ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of temporary lawyers, it is by no means meant to be an exhaustive analysis of the ethical considerations surrounding the placement and hiring of temporary lawyers. Under any arrangement, both the temporary lawyer and hiring law firm must abide by all ethical duties arising under the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, including the duty to provide competent representation under Rule 1.1, Ala. R. Prof. C. With that caveat in mind, the Disciplinary Commission addresses below certain key ethical issues raised by the placement and hiring of temporary lawyers.

Conflicts of Interest

The most daunting ethical dilemma that will be faced by temporary lawyers and those firms that hire them will be determining whether a conflict of interest exists. For the purpose of determining whether a conflict of interest exists, a temporary lawyer who performs work for a client, even under the sole direction of the hiring law firm, represents that client. In other words, even if the temporary lawyer never meets or speaks with the client and all directions are issued by the hiring law firm, an attorney/client...

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