Attention for Attention’s Sake

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For a kid barely 18 months into her career as a lawyer, Rachel Rodgers has gotten more than her share of attention. Some of it, particularly in the blawgosphere, hasn’t been kind. And that has me feeling pretty rotten, as she seems to be a nice, perky young lawyer. There’s nothing wrong with that. More importantly, she’s doing what so many experienced lawyers tell young lawyers to do: try. She’s trying.

Give her credit for that. She’s not sitting home, whining about the lousy job market or drafting a complaint to sue her law school for not telling her the obvious.


One of her more innovative techniques is the creation of a Youtube channel she calls “Rachel Rodgers TV,” in which she is the star of her own video providing disclaimed legal advice to anyone who will watch. They’re pretty well done, provided you don’t get hung up on the substance. But then, they aren’t about the substance, but about her, making herself likeable and making viewers want to retain her. And she is, and they do, I suspect.

The videos have not been well received by practicing lawyersnew lawyers or even unemployed lawyers, who seem troubled by the fact that what she is doing is, without question, giving free-floating legal advice. Apparently, experienced lawyers are troubled by this, throwing ethics in her face coupled with her dangerously simplistic advice. She’s been savaged across the internet for her videos, but this hasn’t stopped her.

Rachel writes a regular “column” for Solo Practice University, the for-profit marketing school created by Susan Cartier Liebel to teach lawyers who want to go solo how to hype themselves. While these columns as well have been the subject of a great deal of criticism, particularly her embrace of the scummiest aspects of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross as if to say that as long as one intends to roll in the gutter, make sure you get as filthy as possible, she definitely reflects the core values of SPU.

Adding to her repetoire, Rachel sought inclusion at Matt Homann’s annual pre-ABA TechShow romp formerly known as IgniteLaw, now LexThink.1, where (with 137 votes!) she won a place giving a six minute lecture on reinventing the law firm template (she likes the word template a lot). It will be a curious spectacle, with a lawyer whose experience barely surpasses that of a fruit fly will lecture a room on things they know far better than she. How this pans out has yet to be seen, but she got the spot she sought and Rachel Rodgers will be on stage while experienced lawyers in the audience will sit quietly and listen to her.

Then Rachel made the list of Rocket Lawyer’s 2011 Attorney of the Year, curiously juxtaposed with a lawyer with 30 years experience. The contest may be silly and utterly meaningless (aside from the $500 that Rocket Lawyer has promised to give to the winner’s charity of choice), but she’s on the list and you (and I) aren’t.

Call Rachel Rodgers what you will, but she’s showing up everywhere while you’re reading the Lawyerist about how to start your solo practice for $12.37.

This makes Rachel Rodgers both the center of good attention, and a magnet for criticism. One school of thought is that any publicity is good publicity, and her efforts have most certainly gotten her a ton more attention than she would have gotten otherwise. Without her “innovative” techniques, tenacity and extreme desire to be in the spotlight, no one would have a clue who she is.

On the one hand, it’s almost painful to watch experienced lawyers beat up on this young woman for trying to make something of herself. Whether to characterize it as piling on, or mobmind, or just some variation on the David and Goliath theme, she’s just a kid being smacked around by big time lawyers. It feels so wrong.

Then again, she’s like a five-year-old screaming for the grown-ups to watch her as she jumps off the diving board. You can’t blame the grown-ups for hearing her screams. Or warning her that there is no water in the pool as she closes her eyes and blindly leaps.

There’s little chance when you look up legal prowess in the dictionary that you’ll find Rachel Rodgers’ picture next to the definition. But she’s not seeking respect, just attention. And she’s most definitely received it. The only question is whether it’s the sort of attention she craved.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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  • um48104

    Sounds like a lot of haterade to me.

  • Sam, it’s always painful when “nice” people get criticism. We should have a rule that no nice people get criticized. All the criticism I received in my 17 years of practice has really hurt me and I wish none of my mentors were so damn blunt and mean. I mean, c’mon, how about a ballon once a day?

    By the way, no lawyer has an issue with another lawyer giving legal advice. (you forgot to say that lawyers like me are afraid that lawyers like Rachel will take all my clients away) As far as I’m concerned, Rachel can give all the legal advice she wants. She is a lawyer I believe.

    She just needs to know 3 things:

    1. If it’s legal advice, don’t say it’s not.
    2. When someone criticizes you, take it. Don’t block them, call them haters, bask in the glory of the support of your “party people,” or pretend that you know everything.
    3. Giving legal advice to the internet or the other “unknown” can, and has gotten lawyers in trouble. (Of course I’m just making that up to scare young lawyers, has nothing to do with anything I’ve seen before)

    • shg

      What flavor haterade are you drinking? Do you prefer the stawberry or the fruit punch?

  • It’s not just that it is legal advice. The bigger problem: It is substandard legal advice that puts those who follow it at risk. Her DIY contract video is a good example. Interestingly, I submitted a comment on her site illustrating how the advice was flawed. It was not published.

    • Yeah, I don’t really have any problem with people putting legal advice on the web, so long as they are careful to warn people that it’s risky to use that legal advice without consulting a lawyer since a single, tiny fact can make that advice wrong or harmful.

      But if you are going to put it out there, stand behind it and answer your critics. By not publishing your comment, it tells me that Rachel won’t even stand behind the advice she does give.

      • shg

        You can’t have it both ways, Sam. Put legal advice out there, and it’s going to be used. There’s no point to offering it if it’s not to be used. And it will be, no matter how many warning or disclaimers. Even the absolute clearest legal advice I can think of, exercise your right to remain silent, has its exceptions.

        While the contract advice, as David says, was simplistic and inadequate, even good advice under one set of circumstances is bad under another. Once it’s out there floating in the ether, it can’t be controlled, and when someone is damaged by its inappropriate or mistaken use, there’s no taking it back.

        • I agree you can’t have it both ways. If you put legal advice out there, you’d better be willing to own it, because it will be used.

          That doesn’t mean lawyers shouldn’t ever put legal advice out there.

  • Guest

    If I were Rachel:

    I would do everything to piss off Brian and Scott and give them content for their crotchety old lawyer schtick. I’d do more and more outrageous things to be the center of lawyer blog conversation.

    When my Google Page Rank hit 5, I’d take down the stuff about setting up LLC for $500 for small businesses (or whatever trivial thing she does) and announce that I’m “Mesothelioma Rachel” and start signing mesothelioma cases; which will of course be referred to a real law firm for a 1/3 referral fee.

    She’ll make more from her one referral than Brian and Scott do from a year’s worth of hustling DUI cases.

    Just a thought.

    • shg

      Other than your silliness about hustling DUI cases, you make an excellent point. With all the attention Rachel has gotten for the variety of things she is doing wrong or improperly, she’s likely to build up some serious Google juice, which she could later turn to more productive use in another lawyer marketing scam, collecting and referring out big money PI cases.

      And that’s a good thing? At what point do young lawyers stop thinking that scheme and scams are good things for lawyers? Is this the future of lawyering, coming up with the next great scam?

  • Concerned Citizen

    It sounds like you should focus on your own business instead of someone else’s. If your concentrating on other lawyers so much how do you take care of the clients that you have? Or do you need publicity as well thats why your focusing so much on her. Negative begets negative my friend. Good Luck with that!

    • shg

      One of the ethical responsibilities of being a lawyer is to prevent other lawyers from engaging in impropriety. But then, I suspect you were taught that in Professional Responsibility, and are one of Rachel’s friends here to try to defend her dignity.

      In any event, it takes very little time for an experienced lawyer to help a young lawyer like Rachel, and the few minutes we might spend thinking up ways to make videos to misadvice the public are used instead to protect the public from lawyers who are engaged in unethical conduct. Your concern for our clients is endearing, but unnecessary.

      When lawyers do wrong, negativity is called for. Only the selfish and corrupt defend improprety, even if it’s through sock puppets with arguments that defy reason. That’s part of a lawyer’s duty, for the protection of “concerned citizens.”

      • The first words out of the professor’s mouth in my MPRE review were “one of the most important things to remember is that you’re a lawyer 24/7. And you have to rat on your lawyer friends.”

  • I for one am interested to hear Rachel’s Ignite presentation (by web). Ignite is a great forum for lawyers and non-lawyers of all ages and stages of careers to toss out and develop ideas in an entertaining way. Why shouldn’t experienced lawyers listen to her – they might gain some insight into a younger lawyer’s way of doing things or get some new ideas to invigorate their practices. (BTW, Brian and Scott have long criticized the concept of Ignite long before Rachel Rodgers was ever included so if they do the same again, it would be hard to say that they are targeting Rachel. I defended my own Ignite participation here – http://myshingle.com/2010/04/articles/myshingle-solo/sorry-but-im-not-contrite-about-ignite-law-just-a-little-late-to-respond/).
    What is most discouraging to me about all of the incidents involving Rachel is that anyone who finds fault with her approach is viewed as launching a personal attack or being mean when in reality, there’s an effort to actually discuss substantive issues. Whether you’re young, old, male, female, lawyer or non-lawyer, if you put an argument out in the blogosphere, you ought to be prepared to stand behind it and defend it – or, as I have in the past, admit that you were partly wrong. Nothing wrong with that either.
    I could understand if the only criticism of Rachel’s positions were irrational rants a la Above the Law. Then, the criticism might be worth ignoring (though for what it’s worth, I even respond to the crazies at ATL). But both Rachel’s video and her post on “ethics as a weapon” spawned extensive and quite substantive discussion on issues like the importance of legal ethics and what constitutes legal advice. To suggest that lawyers who raise legitimate, research-based criticism or offer suggestions for improvement are simply being mean is not productive. Why not combat reasoned legal arguments with reasoned legal responses?

    • Bruce Godfrey

      In Maryland, the disciplinary cases from the Court of Appeals repeatedly hammer home that the purpose of attorney discipline is NOT to punish an attorney but to protect the public. While punishing attorneys is certainly one of the effects of attorney discipline in MD, the goal is to protect the public through restraint of the errant attorney and deterrence of others from damaging clients, prospective clients or public reliance on the integrity of the Bar as a whole.

      It is tempting to focus on personalities and differences in style because personality and style are quite apparent in the online presence of the subject of this post and in the inimitable writings of her most persistent critics. Ditto with generation gaps; the subject of this post explicitly makes it clear on her website that it’s primarily clients of her generation that she welcomes, whereas her critics are of about 1/2 a generation older or more (as am I.) In the end, though, it’s not about curmudgeons or generation Y; it’s about a public that has entrusted the attorney oligopoly with rather broad privileges and about clients who more specifically entrust their freedom, dignity, finances and occasionally their lives to us. They matter; we matter also but less than they do.

  • Clearly publishing a Rachel Rodgers critique is great linkbait. It’s my next project!
    Elder lawyers like to talk about ethics but rarely cite cases where the behavior they cite actually results in at least public censure.