The Future is Here – Update for the Wary

Thanks to an attentive reader, I have a follow-up to this morning’s post.  I’ll paste in the post here:


For over a year, Kevin Ryan and I have been talking about, some might say ‘warning of’, looming changes to the legal profession.  Kevin was the first person I heard speak of the “uberization of the law.”  Since then, we’ve mentioned at it at every seminar we’ve presented together.  We usually don’t get much of a response beyond “that’s cool, can we move on to the practical stuff now.”

  • Well, many people consider apps to be practical.

And, from Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites blog, here’s the latest on apps and the “uberization of the law.”


Now, for the update.

I understand the app isn’t yet available. However, when it is, a few thoughts.

According to the article, the developer of the app, Jason Velez,

  • “foresees the app being used to answer quick and simple legal questions at no charge. The incentive for attorneys to participate is to establish relationships with users that could then lead to fee-generating services and referrals.”

That’s great and, generally, there’s nothing wrong with answering quick and simple legal questions at no cost.  But, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. There’s no minimum length of time required to form an attorney-client relationship. Nor is there any requirement that a fee be charged or collected in order for an a/c relationship to form.  An attorney who provides a quick and simple answer to a legal question does so, arguably, in the context of an attorney-client relationship.  If so, once the connection is terminated, the app user is a “former client” to whom Rule 1.9 applies.
  2. Even now, lawyers have the ability to answer short & simple questions at no cost.  Perhaps by e-mail, or maybe on one of those machines that my aunt calls a “telephone,” or, heaven forbid, if a client walks in the front door.   And what do most lawyers do before responding to unsolicited e-mails or doling out advice to cold callers and walk-ins?  They check for conflicts.  That quick chat at no cost might be a great lead generator, but what if the person with whom you connected is adverse to a current or former client?

I’ve mentioned this in other contexts:  Rule 6.5 relaxes the conflicts rules when lawyers provide short-term legal services, with no expectation of continuing representation, in nonprofit & court-annexed limited legal services programs.  One might argue that providing free or low-cost advice to generate good will & leads is not the same as volunteering at a Saturday morning legal clinic.

In short, embrace technology, especially to the extent it can streamline your practice and make you a better and more efficient lawyer.  But remember, the rules continue to apply.