I was thrilled to hear the news today from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog that the ABA announced its partnership with Rocket Lawyer on a pilot project to help match up ABA members with online clients.
I’ve been researching and writing about lawyer collaboration with branded networks like Rocket Lawyer for the past couple of years with a focus on ethics issues and best practices. I wrote a book about the best practices for lawyers who wanted to work with these companies and make connections with clients through them. I think this partnership integrates wonderfully with virtual law practice and unbundling of legal services. However, I didn’t see this announcement coming because of the resistance I’ve heard from state bars for the past several years to any form of online delivery, even completely lawyer-owned and controlled, that might threaten the traditional lawyer business model. This announcement is huge because it steps back from the usual protectionist stance of the ABA and looks at what the public is asking for from the profession and at what lawyers need in order to connect with them. It is an acknowledgement from the ABA that consumers are going online looking for legal services and that not having licensed lawyers on board with the public’s need for online legal services puts both the lawyer and the public at a disadvantage.
One of the key themes that came out of the Legal Services Corporation’s Tech Summit Report was the need for mobile access. Rocket Lawyer has developed a mobile app as a part of its online services offerings. Getting lawyers used to using mobile apps and online tools is going to increase the profession’s ability to provide greater access to legal services, especially in rural areas. It’s also going to lead to greater acceptance and use of unbundling as a legal service delivery model. It will be interesting to see how these pilot projects role out. Here is a link to my free ebook with best practices for collaboration by lawyers and companies like Rocket Lawyer.