Monday, April 11, 2011

The Future Of Law: Better, Faster, Cheaper - Pick Which One You Want

If you practice law, go to law school, or just know that lawyers exist, I trust by now you've read the story of Joseph Rakofsky's representation in a murder case.

New details have surfaced.

He solicited himself for the case. If you don't know, lawyers can advertise under stringent rules, but are not permitted to solicit. They do, every day, but it's a violation of the ethics rules.

Rakofsky also quoted a fee 50-75% less of what the client was hearing from other lawyers. Nothing unethical about that, unless you are quoting the fee just to get the case, and refrain from telling the client that a. you've never handled a murder case, and b. you've never tried a case.

This is how some inexperienced lawyers get cases today - cut price and say as little as possible about your lack of experience.

Take for example one of the cornerstones of today's marketing lawyer - if you've only been out a few years, don't put your graduation date from law school or college on your website. (Stop laughing, internet marketers - yeah, we all know it's one of your "secrets.")

Sunday night a group of people not asked to speak at the ABA Tech Show in Chicago this week, had their own pre-tech show conference - Ignite Law. This conference selected 12 people, some practicing lawyers, to discuss the future of law - each speaker getting 6 minutes.

Of course, how a lawyer parading as an experienced criminal defense lawyer used tech and social media to create a false image of his experience and qualifications, was discussed profusely.

Actually, no it wasn't.

The marketers and tech types are still on an embargo on that topic. Not a word.

All the speakers did mention the New York Times piece by exonerated convict John Thompson that went viral yesterday where he wonders if the future of law will bring prosecutors to justice.

Actually, none of them mentioned that, and no one at tech show will mention that this week. As some hysterical attendee said last year "it's tech show, tech show, it's about tech, tech tech tech," etc...

If you're wondering what the future of law holds for all of us according to the speakers at Ignite Law:

As the ABA Journal summed it up:

Technology will push bar regulators to ease jurisdictional restrictions. More than 50 percent of clients will rely on consumer review websites like Yelp to find a lawyer. And iPads and other smart tablets will be as ubiquitous in firms and courtrooms as microwave ovens are in homes.

Lawyer Jay Shepherd is so certain the billable hour will be dead in 8 years that he announced to the sold-out crowd he is closing his practice to focus on a new venture, PREFIX, which teaches lawyers how to value and price knowledge and judgment.

Lawyer Jim Calloway probably assured himself he wont be invited back when he called for a return to old-school communication including handwritten thank-you notes and smartphone-free face time as two of the best ways to build client trust in the future.

His catchphrase 'What Would Grandma Do?' drew laughs.

Ha ha h......heh..h...

I wasn't invited to speak at Ignite Law, mainly because I didn't submit an audition package and beg people on twitter to vote for me, but if I did, and was selected, I would have said something like this:

The future of law will require lawyers to keep confidences of clients. It will require that lawyers understand legal issues and figure out ways to resolve client problems. There will be so many lawyers in the profession for the sole purpose of collecting clients through internet marketing, that it will be the rare lawyer who agrees to meet in a room with a client where the only technology is a glass to hold some water, a pen, some paper, and a professional interested in a face to face opportunity to discuss an important issue with a person needing legal services.

Witnesses will be called into courtrooms to testify about what your clients did, and you will be required to understand how to question them without the use of something with an on/off switch. You will also be required to explain your legal position through an analysis of the case law you obtained virtually or via the fax machine connected to the radio in your wireless car.

Because everyone will have a tablet-type device and ability to video conference with people through their sunglasses, the successful lawyer will be the one who gains a reputation for understanding how the law applies to a particular client's issue, and who has the ability to advocate a position through the connection of facts to current law.

I don't know what the future of the legal profession will entail, as I'm just a practitioner, not a palm reader. Like anything else, there will be a movement towards better, faster, cheaper.

Tech and social media marketing can definitely help you be two of those things.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


BL1Y said...

We're definitely going to need to ease jurisdictional limits. You can already sit in an office in the state you are admitted and advise a client who is sitting in a second state on a matter taking place in a third state.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to be an attorney to be a judge in upstate NY. NY Times has a few articles on this issue. I don't know about Texas.

shg said...

BL1Y -- We can throw rocks through windows and snatch stuff from inside. That doesn't make it a good thing to do. It's an excellent thing that you do not practice law. Never change.

Joe said...

I’m a techie geek, and technology has made my solo practice economically feasible. By that I mean things like digital document storage, a smartphone, case tracking software and a Dymo label/stamp maker. I like technology, but as a lawyer you’re doing something wrong when it becomes anything more than a means to an end.

I don’t hold myself out to be anything more or less than I am. I make that clear to prospective clients, and my web site has in large writing what I’m sure is considered a gigantic marketing Faux pas:

‘As a matter of professional integrity our office will not take a case in an area of law we are not experienced in.’

But what do I know? I’m just another litigation attorney. My shoes wear out from being in court, I know the clerks by name and the preferences of most judges. More importantly, like all ordinary litigators I know where the good parking spaces are.