Lawyerist and The American Lawyer are reporting that the ABA has abandoned its partnership with Rocket Lawyer. This is an embarrassing turn of events for the ABA, but I have to say that I am not terribly surprised by it.
But first here is the background in case you don't know what it is this is all about. Last October, to much fanfare, the ABA announced the creation of a pilot program that provides on-demand legal
advice for small businesses called ABA Law Connect. The program was part of the ABA's efforts to improve access to legal
services, but also to respond to criticism that it has been slow to allow "innovation" in the legal market. (In 2015, the ABA held a Summit on Innovation and one of the most reported sessions during the meeting of the House of Delegates was a speech by Avvo's CEO in which he called for the elimination of rules regarding unauthorized practice of law in the name of innovation to open the legal market to innovators like, you guessed it, Avvo, of course.)
Yet, as I have argued here before, "innovation" has become a buzzword and we
shouldn't rush to try to be innovative at the risk of creating other
problems. There is no point in being innovative for innovation's sake. It reminds me of the Direct TV commercial in which a group of executives are meeting to discuss "new ideas." One of the executives throws shrimp on the conference table at breakfast and the CEO says "... not the way I would have gone, but it is innovative. And that's what we want around here..."
When I first wrote about the RocketLawyer program here, I pointed out a few concerns I had. I have also written about my concerns regarding Avvo. And, well, I hate to say it, but ... there you have it. As BB King would say, "the thrill is gone."
To be clear, I don't know exactly why the ABA decided to back out -- probably a combination of reasons-- but whatever the reason was, ABA Connect is no more. And as Lawyerist writes, "this may be . . . another example of innovation getting ahead
of regulation. The ABA did try to innovate boldly, but it got ahead of
its own regulations in doing so." Just what I have been saying all along...
Now the more interesting question becomes, if the regulation is not ready to support the innovators, are the lawyers who are signed up with RocketLawyer, ABA Connect and Avvo in violation of the rules?... Stay tuned...