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 lawyers, new 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.