Back in June (which is a lifetime ago in the blawgosphere), Scott Greenfield wrote about young Rachel Rodgers.
His motivation for the post was my tweet of what Greenfield referred to as a "cheerleading post" on solo practice.
A brief history on solo practice:
Used to be that lawyers would work for someone and then go solo. Now there's no jobs so lawyers are going from law school graduation, right to the computer to create their law firm twitter account and Facebook fan page, and presto - a practice is born with an "experienced, aggressive" attorney. Today we fake it until we make it, as the marketers encourage young lawyers to do.
Back to the post.
It was a post about all the wonderful things about solo practice, and it highlighted Rachel:
The 2009 Cardozo School of Law graduate spent a year clerking for a judge and then decided to start her own firm while working a part-time job at a law firm. She was laid off after they ran out of work for her to do, but her unemployment gave her the push she needed to dedicate more time and effort to building her practice.
OK. Sounds good.
By working from her home in Phoenix, Ariz., and using her website as her storefront, she manages to keep overhead costs less than $500 a month. Her virtual office allows clients to log into her website and, like a bank’s secure online system, send information back and forth between her clients.
Nice, for those clients who don't want to meet their lawyer face to face, don't want an office to visit, don't want to see where and how their files are being managed, and completely trust the confidentiality and total complete rock solid privacy of the internet.
“There have been times when I’ve woken up in the morning and I have new clients,” she said. “They’ve found me online somehow and I’ve never had any interaction with them, but now they’re my clients. It’s pretty sweet.”
New clients, no interaction with them. OK.
Rodgers is catering to other people like herself— burgeoning first-time entrepreneurs, some of whom have been laid off due to the poor economy.
Clients who have been laid off. They are signing on to hire a lawyer over the internet for what, exactly?
And of course: She... maintains a blog, writes on other blogs and stays active on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Cue the tribute to the almighty social media:
“Twitter has helped me be on the cutting edge. I know what’s going on right when it’s happening,” she said. “Also I work in my office by myself most days, so it’s like these are my coworkers. That’s who I interact with throughout the day. It helps me not to be so lonely.”
The cutting edge of what? Weather? Plane crashes? What exactly, please tell us unknowing, old, stick in the mud lawyers, what is going on "right now" on twitter? Did Justin Bieber fart again?
And of course, when we talk solo these days, we never find Solo Practice University too far away, an online collection of lawyers (practicing and non practicing and even one who is referred to as a "practicing attorney" but isn't, but who cares?) and social media consultants ready to teach solo practice over the internet.
Rodgers credits her success to the confidence she gained from the clerkship and to Solo Practice University, a subscription-based website founded in 2009 that offers video, written and audio tutorials for prospective or current solo practitioners.
Must be why Solo Practice University went into a frenzy tweeting out Rachel's rant yesterday.
So after this post appeared, Greenfield wrote about it and took a minute to discover this solo practice wonder kid.
Now remember, this was June.
He found this about the 2009 graduate:
Rodgers has her law office in Arizona, though she's not admitted to practice law there.
She claims: Rachel has developed expertise in various areas of alternative dispute resolution including negotiation, mediation and arbitration.
Then Greenfield wondered whether she actually practices law, you know represents clients, those things that lawyers do?
He asked this because he found this on her site:
Want to Go Solo?
Are you a law student looking to start developing a strategy to go solo upon graduation?
Are you a new law graduate having trouble finding employment?
Are you a lawyer ready to go solo and wondering what area of law to practice?
Would you love to have your own practice but not sure how to obtain clients?
I am contacted every week by law students and lawyers who are struggling due to a tough job market and are wondering how they’ll pay off their loans, practice the type of law they always hoped to and have the type of lifestyle they always wanted. I have spent the last two years researching, planning and then building my own unique law practice and have been able to bring it to a place of profitability while also meeting my lifestyle needs. I believe that you can do the same.
I Can Help!
You can build the law practice of your dreams and I can help! I provide consulting sessions for lawyer-entrepreneurs wanting to set up their own innovative, tech-savvy law practices. For many lawyers (especially recent law grads), entrepreneurship is the only way that they will be able to practice law and do so in a way that fits their lifestyle and philosophy. I understand this dilemma as I am also a recent law grad. I will help you develop a strategy and actionable plan to get your solo practice off the ground.
Now that was June. It's August. Since June, I haven't heard Rachel's name. Apparently though, she's been getting very very mad about things she's read.
So she basically went on a hysterical rant that the happysphere of online lawyers blew kisses to, while others questioned what she was talking about, and told everyone who is not a young lawyer looking for the magic bullet to shut up about ethics and go to hell, meanies:
Let me start off with a warning that as I write this column I am angry. I’ve decided enough is enough and am now willing to address this issue, and the attorneys who do what I am about to describe, head on.
Then she asks a bunch of questions:
Why would young lawyers be against being ethical? Because we have an online presence? Because we, dare I say it, actually market our practices to potential clients? Because we have the nerve to start law practices after completing law school and passing our state bar? Or because we practice law in a non-traditional way?
I can answer that.
No Rachel, because lawyers like me have caught many "fake it til you make it" young lawyers lying about their experience in order to get both clients to hire them and lawyers to use them as consultants. That's unethical.
It's not unethical to claim that 2 years after graduating law school a lawyer can help other lawyers build the practice of their dreams. It's merely ridiculous bullshit that only the naive and desperate would believe. But it's not unethical.
Rachel is also mad (but is afraid to say at who) because:
I have been accused by ‘more experienced’ colleagues’ of being an unethical attorney simply because I practice law online or because I practice law in a state where I do not live...
No dear, you were accused of PRACTICING LAW IN A STATE WHERE YOU ARE NOT ADMITTED. HAVING AN OFFICE SOMEWHERE WHERE YOU ARE NOT A MEMBER OF THE BAR OR NOT HAVING AN OFFICE IN A STATE WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE AN OFFICE.
That's unethical, if it's true. I'm sure it's not. I'm sure she'll be here in a few minutes to explain, as will her happy following of fans.
Rachel's rant includes some prolific statements, like:
Well, too bad! Too bad that you do not understand.
What further toasts my muffins about the so-called unimpeachable ethics of some highly critical, experienced attorneys is that they themselves could certainly take notes from younger attorneys about professional ethics.
Rachel's rant against old rigid lawyers who fear the iPad and too much coffee at Starbucks while researching the newest social media site, then reveals the point:
In conclusion, my point is this: Experienced attorneys stop trying to scare young lawyers half to death with your scary ethics anecdotes about lawyers who were disbarred or suspended due to unethical behavior.
Scary ethics anecdotes.
Like stories of young lawyers who took on cases for which they had no business taking and got disbarred? Like stories of young lawyers who didn't know how to maintain a trust account and got disbarred? Like stories of young lawyers who were suspended for lying about their credentials?
Rachel, listen, like you (say), I get calls "every week" from young lawyers with ethics questions. I answer them. I never "scare" them in to not opening their own practice. Never.
Social media has created a new level of "truth," in general, and in the practice of law. Old lawyers are not to blame, young lawyers are not to blame. Generalities never work.
But the truth, Rachel, is that the current state of the legal economy has caused young lawyers who can't get jobs to blow their brains out on the internet, practice in non-traditional ways, and lie, yes, lie to get clients. People do weird things when money is on the table.
And when a young lawyer calls me after committing an ethics violation because they "didn't know" they couldn't do what their marketer or online work at home lawyer consultant told them, I always wish they would of called me before they screwed up.
So I could scare them.
Non-anonymous comments welcome. Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.