It’s funny how quick we are to blame technology. At least in headlines. Apparently, tech sells.
I’ve blogged on this phenomenon before: Social Media Sanction! Except, not really. For the latest, I present 3 headlines:
- Charleston attorney suspended for 3.5 years after offering legal advice for Go Fund Me money
- Go Fund A Lawyer
- Misleading GoFundMe appeal with offer for free legal advice leads to lawyer’s suspension
Without reading the articles, what do you think got the lawyer in trouble?
I can hear you now:
Mike, for all your tech competence mumbo jumbo, tech only leads to one thing – trouble!
- The first headline ran on January 26 in the West Virginia Record.
- The second ran on January 28 on the Legal Profession Blog.
- The third ran on January 31 in the ABA Journal.
Yes, a West Virginia lawyer’s license was suspended for 42 months. Yes, the misconduct included a misleading GoFundMe page.
How much money do you think the lawyer raised via the GoFundMe campaign?
If you guessed anything more than $0.00, you guessed wrong.
The lawyer created the page in September 2017. He took it down immediately after disciplinary authorities alerted him to their investigation of the page. It had been active for 3 or 4 days and generated exactly zero donations. The lawyer testified that he’d meant it only for family members and did not realize that it was publicly available.
Then why the 3.5 year suspension?
Alas, for approximately nine months that spanned 2016 and 2017, the lawyer misappropriated more than $12,000 from the Kanawha Valley Soccer League while serving as its treasurer.
The hearing panel’s decision is here. Yes Costanza, stealing money is wrong.
There’s no need to fear tech or to think that tech developments have foisted a whole new type of unethical lawyer on the masses. Since the dawn of time, people (including lawyers) with access to other people’s money have stolen it.
Further, don’t let the headlines detract from something more important: crowdfunding platforms can help to provide access to legal services.
Are there ethics issues associated with crowdfunding platforms? Yes. I’ve written about them here and here. Regular #fiveforfriday contributor Professor Alberto Bernabe has discussed them here.
But, to think that a crowdfunding platform caused a lawyer to lose his license for 3.5 years would be, quite simply, wrong.
Don’t let buried ledes fool you. Don’t fear tech.