Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud

Just before going to sleep last night, I received an email with a link to a slew of Youtube videos from IgniteLaw, an old fashioned tent revival show put on by Matt Homann’s business, LexThink, at the ABA TechShow in Chicago.  As opposed to my normal morning routine, reading news stories and blawg posts, I spent my time watching the videos, at least those that worked.

Bear in mind that this isn’t some wild radical subversive group hellbent on destroying the practice of law.  This comes with the blessing of the American Bar Association.  The subtitle of the program is “The Future of Law Practice: In Six Minute Increments.” 

Some of the segments were old news.  Eliminating our tendency to rely on paper when it’s unnecessary, for example, or embracing the use of new communications technology or billing methods.  Sure, it was presented in simplistic and jargonistic fashion, but they only had six minutes and everyone in the audience already knew all about it anyway.  If you weren’t part of the congregation, why be there?  

As  you’re reading this, you already know the internet exists and are more than likely familiar with the use of email. You can skip half the program, although it’s really kind of funny to watch people explain to a room of technophiles how paper works, or to a room full of lawyers  what lawyers do for a living.  Hint: We do not represent clients.

The other half dealt with lawyer marketing.  Imagine this: Attila the Hun speaking on diplomacy.  Kevin Chern of Total Attorneys speaking on the ethics of legal marketing.  Consultant/Professional Keynote speaker  Ari Kaplan, sans Prozac, challenging the faithful to push their marketing to the edge and beyond.  Take risks and be like Kaplan’s 4 1/2 year old child.  No, really.

Throughout the videos, you see shots of the audience, most of whom have a laptop open in front of them.  In the introduction, Homann asks those twitting to use a hashtag.  This is as geeky as it gets, and must have been an unbearable drag for those physically present (how old school).  Had it stayed in Chicago, it would have been fine.  Who cares if a bunch of poseurs, beloved of their avant garde approach to the banal, want to enjoy group sex?  It’s not like it was a room of practicing lawyers, who were unable to be present because they were busy practicing law.

There are, however, a significant group of lawyers who are susceptible to this sort of proselytizing.  The new lawyer.  The lawyer without business.  The crappy lawyer. The greedy lawyer.  The desperate lawyer.  And as one lawyer jumps on the bandwagon to “success”, others fear that they will be left behind, beaten to the punch by the lawyer who seizes the opportunity to use every means available to market, and jumps on before he’s left behind.

Why would they take this seriously?  This is the ABA.  The American Bar Association, the staunch defender of America legal mores and tradition.  If the ABA promotes it, it must support it.  And if the ABA supports it, it must be fine.  This is the way of the future or the ABA would want no part of it.  Quick, run out and buy hotpants before they’re all gone.

There are some assumptions that belie the lessons taught in Chicago.  That everyone markets.  That everyone wants and needs to market.  That marketing is good for lawyers and clients.  That without marketing, you will fail as a lawyer.

It’s a fraud.  Forget Ari Kaplan’s frenetic, breathless extortion to market like a four year old plays with a Wii.  It’s a lie.   One of the most offensive parts was the notion that legal ethics, being slow and plodding, resistant to change and unable adapt to ever changing technology, is to be ignored.  The problem isn’t with every new-found method of marketing being unethical, but rather with ethical approval lagging behind technology.  Just do it, and eventually it will be fine.

This is being promoted across the internet by a group of people who do not practice law, but who earn a living by persuading people who do that it’s okay to pay for their services, buy into their philosophy, and validate their business model.  This isn’t about your business model as lawyers, but their business model as snake oil salesmen.

That the ABA would tolerate this crap is a disgrace.  That the ABA would promote this cabal determined to convince lawyers that ethics are no longer a part of our obligation is inexcusable.  That they send this message to your computer is a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, because this is nothing but a lie.  It is not acceptable to engage in unethical behavior, even if it can make you money, even if it involves cool technology, even if a bunch of former lawyers turned pitchmen say so. 

What you won’t see at IgniteLaw is anyone spending their six minutes telling lawyers to work hard, put their client’s interests ahead of their own and conduct themselves with integrity and dignity, even if it means that they lose a few bucks in the process.

If only I could get the time back wasted on watching those videos.

5 comments on “Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud

  1. Tim Eavenson

    “…the lessons taught in Chicago…”

    Why do these things always seem to happen in Chicago? Political corruption and mob ties are one thing, but smarmy lawyering is not something I want to be known for.

  2. My Shingle

    Sorry, But I’m Not Contrite About Ignite Law (Just a Little Late to Respond)

    The night before ABATech Show, I participated in Ignite Law 2010: The Future of Law in Six Minute Increments. I’ll admit — the Ignite event excited me – and I submitted a proposal because I think and write about the…

  3. Fergus O'Rourke

    Well said. I haven’t seen the materials, but what lawyer serious about his or her calling could quarrel with your sentiments ?

    I hope that you were exaggerating how bad it was, though, and on previous form, I suspect that you were 🙂

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