Ever wonder why the ABA never seems to reflect the thought, interests or approach of actual lawyers? Carolyn Elefant, who wastes her time trying to be involved in such nonsense, explains:
Four years on the heels of its Ethics 20/20 Initiative, the ABA is once again trying to make itself relevant. This time around, the ABA has established a Commission on the Future of Legal Services , with a goal of inspiring innovation and leveraging technology to expand access to justice. And guess who’s expected to bear the brunt of providing access to justice? None other than solo and small firm practitioners who already do more than nearly any other sector to make legal services available to ordinary folks.
You think I’m kidding? Would that it were so. But one of the issues on which the Commission is seeking comment is:
How can small law practices (e.g., solo practitioners, lawyers in rural communities, small firm lawyers, etc.) sustainably represent those who do not have access to legal services?
What’s more, we’re the only segment of the population to attract our own shout-out. There’s no mention of what big law attorneys or government lawyers or legal academics or legal tech start-ups can do to represent those without access to legal services. Only solo.
Given Carolyn’s focus on solo and small firm lawyers, her reaction to the ABA’s “what can we suck out of solos today” approach is no surprise. What is a surprise, however, is who is pushing this agenda.
To be fair, however, it wasn’t just solos – but most lawyers – who even bothered to participate in the Ethics 20/20 initiative. The bulk of the input hailed largely from marketers and cloud-computing companies. And while these interests deserve a voice, they shouldn’t be driving the train.
This time around, I fear, the imbalance between vendors and lawyers will be even worse. Now, there’s a herd of investor-backed start-ups clamoring outside the ABA’s door to persuade the legal profession to jettison ethics prohibitions on non-lawyer ownership and outside investment. Who can blame the ABA for breaking bread with these fresh, new companies who can inject money into the organization with lucrative sponsorships. In exchange, these companies gain a semblance of legitimacy which in turn, helps them to push their platforms as “opportunities” for solos and smalls to access new clients while providing legal services at deeply discounted rates without ever gaining a stake in the client.
That’s right. While lawyers are hanging around being all lawyerish, all those alt law we-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-ethics businesses who publicly promote how they’re the future of law and privately seek to suck up their piece of the legal market without any responsibility for the competence, duty or ethics that constrain lawyers, are pounding away at the ABA.
We’re being played, boys and girls. And the very official, committee-loving, ABA-joiner types are either too ignorant or too easily flattered to either see it or comprehend that they’re the tool of an industry that exists to suck as much as it can out of the legal profession before laying waste to our clients.
While guys like me often point a finger at the lawyer-apologist-deniers who are complicit in undermining the competence and ethics of the profession, they’re small potatoes compared to the new corporate interests that seek to destroy professionalism to suck some moolah out of the law. I just thought you ought to know.