My good buddies at Avvo throw a party for themselves every year in Vegas. You know, that place where whatever happens stays there? When they got thin on in-house cheerleaders to lead the chorus in singing their praises, they decided to try something new, the Avvo flavor of Ignite Law.
In fairness, I’m a little miffed that I didn’t know about this sooner, as I would have submitted my bid for an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas on Avvo’s dime:
Lose the iPad for the yPad: Why buy shiny when you already have yellow on your desk?
But I didn’t know about the contest, and can’t compete with the seven minute blitzkrieg of “Bringing Sexy Back: Do you know what your contracts say?” or “Corporations are people too: Solving this other A2J-like problem is a huge opportunity.” Important stuff, right? Oh wait, Avvo doesn’t actually pay the freight? They have to pay Avvo to get a slot to market their wares? Who would do something so asinine?
But then, it’s not like Avvo is playing in the same sandbox as the other tech-wankers. Avvo CEO Mark Britton was given a chance to speak to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates. Perhaps the House of Pancakes was booked already?
His director of promotion and general counsel, Josh King, explains at his well-named marketing blog, Socially Awkward:
The ABA Journal reports that Mark Britton – Avvo’s CEO, and my boss – told the ABA House of Delegates that bar regulators need to “get rid of UPL” and embrace innovation.
If you read the comments on the piece, you’ll note that Mark’s sentiment was not warmly or widely embraced.
That’s to be expected of the defensive members of my conservative and sometimes hidebound profession. Change is scary and unsettling.
That is so true, change is scary and unsettling. But that’s not the problem with Mark’s pitch, and Josh is smart enough to construct a straw man for the foolish.
But something’s got to give. There continues to be a massive disconnect between lawyers and the potential clients out there who could use their services – if only the bars could get out of the way and seriously consider:
- Allowing non-lawyer ownership of law firms, so that talented non-lawyers could import from other industries the innovations, merchandising, and customer service orientation so lacking in the practice of law.
- Significantly carving back the definition of “the practice of law” so that non-lawyers could provide a much wider range of straightforward legal-related services.
- Removing artificial geographic constraints, so that attorneys could more freely find and serve their clients, regardless of physical location.
And anyone who doesn’t agree is a dinosaur who is afraid of change. See how easy that is? After all, lawyers are “defensive members of [Josh’s] conservative and sometimes hidebound profession.” If he characterizes opposition with ad hominems, he doesn’t have to acknowledge, and then face, the legitimate reasons for opposition.
The professional independence of lawyers must be protected, deception and shoddy services must be rooted out, and competency to practice within a jurisdiction’s courts must be maintained.
But it starts with having a real discussion about whether the current structure of overreaching UPL restrictions serves any of these ends well.
Aside from Josh’s inclusion of the loaded word, “overreaching,” he’s right, but he’s contributing nothing to a “real discussion” when he chalks up opposition to fear and loathing. Then again, he’s with Avvo.
Are we really protecting consumers and the integrity of the legal system, or are we just trying to maintain a monopoly?
I can’t speak for Avvo, but if lawyers are doing it right, we’re “really” protecting clients. In fact, that’s precisely what we do, and what we’re trained to do, and what we’re ethically required to do. Private note to Josh: Lawyers call them clients, not consumers. We don’t sell laundry detergent. YMMV.
As lawyers, we’re really good at pointing at the problems and potential risks in taking action. But the problems stemming from inaction are just as real.
What the hell does this mean? It kinda seems like it should mean something, but it’s gibberish. A competent lawyer parses all aspects of a client’s situation, action and non-action. Did you miss that day in law school, Josh?
And we’re feeling them in spades as the legal services market becomes increasingly inaccessible – and irrelevant – to the vast majority of the public.
That access of legal representation costs money is a problem, but is the solution to let Joe the car mechanic hang out a shingle? Divorces $10. Merger and Acquisition Agreements, $50. Felonies on sale, $79.99.
Some of these “points” have been discussed ad nauseam, like “removing ‘artificial’ geographical barriers,” because it’s not like states have their own laws and procedures. How dare clients expect their lawyer to know what to do when he walks into a court where they speak their local dialect, and he’s got no clue what they’re talking about.
But the baby lawyers, the ones to whom Avvo caters because they are desperate to create the appearance that they aren’t clueless by answering free questions on Avvo and, more importantly, buying advertising as an Avvo pro, and who want to practice law on the internet and take money from anyone willing to pay them, no matter where they are or their monumental inability to provide minimally adequate representation, love this idea. An email from Des Moines to a lawyer in Jersey?
“Send money, bro. Sure, I can handle . . . uh, what was that called again, oh yeah, a secured transaction. Whatever. No prob. I’m a secured transaction wiz, bro.”
Are there changes that can, and should, be made for lawyers to better serve the needs of clients? I think so. I’ve said as much. But it was with some serious consideration of the real arguments for and against, the real problems and the real drawbacks. But mostly, it was always with what’s best for clients.
Want to talk about this, Josh? Mark? Want to have that “real conversation”? So let’s do it. Except it’s not going to happen in a seven minute flash session at Ignite Law, where no thought gets more than a three second slide. And of course, since this is all about cheering on Avvo, you will never ask anyone who could engage in the other side of a thoughtful conversation to come to Vegas.
Plus, you would have to pay their way, and I’m pretty sure the last traunch has no line item for honest discussion. Then again, it probably wouldn’t matter since what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.