By Romy Kapoor I
n the current economic environment and with pressures from clients to reduce or maintain fees, the question arises whether outsourcing certain aspects of immigration case preparation
might make sense. Considerations include: What work can reasonably be outsourced? Should you outsource off-shore or on- shore? What is the cost compared to keeping the work in-house? How do you manage workflow, oversee work, and ensure quality of work product? What are the ethical issues involved?
Outsourcing on its face seems to make the most sense in an immigration practice where the bulk of the work outsourced would be forms preparation, cover letter generation, or perhaps legal research. For example, an H-1B case where the vendor would complete and file the Labor Condition Application with the U.S. Department of Labor, prepare the I-129 petition forms, the cover letter to USCIS, and draſt the employer’s supporting letter. Or in a marriage-based case, the vendor would prepare various immigrant petition and adjustment of status (AOS) forms (I-130, I-485, I-765, I-864, etc.). Further, outsourcing may be a more viable option for a high-volume practice which can repeat a relatively standard format for petitions, or a sole or small office practitioner who does not want to take on the responsibility of in-house staff with the attendant costs of salaries, payroll taxes, benefits, etc.
Outsourcing rates are generally quite attractive. H-1B/E/L rates can range from $100 - $300, AOS packets from $250-500, and naturalization applications from $150-$250. In the past, virtually all immigration outsourcing vendors, such as Unicita Consulting and SDD Global Solutions, were exclusively off-shore (predominantly in India), but many, if not most, now have offices in the U.S. Tis can help maintain quality control and workflow management. With a good internet connection, communications CONTINUED ON 4 >>
SOURCING When your firm’s
caseload is piling up, you may ponder
advantages and risks.
Helena S. Younossi weigh the
outsourcing your immigration work. Romy Kapoor and
By Helena S. Younossi
utsourcing your immigration work may be an attractive way to handle momentary spikes in work volume without the need to hire additional staff. What ethical
issues would prevent smaller immigration firms from jumping on the outsourcing band wagon?
Te ethical concerns, extensively addressed by ABA Opinion 08-451, mainly focus on six areas: Disclosure to the client, proper supervision, confidentiality, compensation arrangements, conflicts of interest and unauthorized practice of law. Tis article addresses the potential need to disclose offshoring arrangements to the client.
According to ABA Formal Op. 08-451, attorneys should advise a client of the fact that work may be performed by an offshore provider because offshoring generally involves a lower degree of supervision. If confidential information is shared, the client’s consent is mandatory. Tis requirement of disclosure without the close supervision of a lawyer in the U.S. is also supported by ABA Formal Opinion 88-356. Assuming close supervision, disclosure is still mandated where confidential information is shared with an outside provider. Furthermore, ABA Formal Op. 08-451 states that “appropriate disclosures should be made to the client regarding the use of lawyers or nonlawyers outside of the lawyer’s firm.” A smaller firm’s concern with disclosure may be twofold: Large firms that send their work to their own offices abroad are not under the same obligation. Additionally, a small firm’s disclosure of such an arrangement may leave the client wary of the quality of work such an arrangement produces, and these concerns may appear validated to the client with each discovery of even a minor error.
Disclosure requirements also depend on the manner in which offshored work is billed to the client and whether or not the
CONTINUED ON 4 >> www.aila.org 3