Back in October, the ABA tested a partnership with Rocket Lawyer. For just $4.95, small businesses could ask an ABA member one question and a follow-up using an online portal. The pitch to lawyers was not a chunk of the $4.95, obviously, but the chance of a new client. Today, the ABA abandoned the partnership.
Some are decrying this as yet another example of the ABA’s inability to innovate. And let’s be honest, the ABA does tend to have trouble where innovation is concerned. (Though there are notable exceptions.) But the problem here seems to be more about the ABA’s failure to cross the ts and dot the is than any inability to innovate.
ABA Law Connect—the name of the portal—functioned as a referral service, at least in part. But as a referral service, ABA Law Connect probably didn’t even measure up to the ABA’s own Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral Services. Or at least, the ABA didn’t clearly articulate how ABA Law Connect complied.
To be sure, it also threatened the business models of hundreds of local bar association referral services, which didn’t earn ABA Law Connect many fans. Those local bar associations brought up the model rules in their objections to the ABA, of course.
What this may be, then, is 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.
(Although if the ABA had cut local bar associations in on the action, I’ve got to think the result may have been a change in the rules instead of abandoning ABA Law Connect. Money talks.)
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