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Archive for the ‘Your friendly state bar.’ Category

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/UserpageCOI.svg/262px-UserpageCOI.svg.pngThe movement begun in Nebraska in 2013 to deunify the regulatory and trade association functions of mandatory bar associations continues. On January 13, 2017,  Representative Anthony Kern introduced HB 2295 and HB 2300  to improve public protection by eliminating the Arizona Bar’s regulator and trade association conflict of interest. Yesterday, both bills were assigned to House Committees for their respective hearings.

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Rep. Anthony Kern

According to Kern, “The bills resolve the conflict of interest that exists when a quasi-public organization that licenses lawyers and is supposed to regulate their conduct also remains beholden to lawyer interests. Neither the public or lawyers are going to be well served by such a conflict. The two missions – protecting the public and serving lawyers – do not work well together.”

In accord with its prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government and its duty to uphold the Arizona Constitution, HB2295 represents a determination by the Arizona Legislature that the protection of the public is the highest priority. And that in the licensing, regulating, and disciplining of attorneys in the state, the protection of the public is paramount over other interests sought to be promoted. This bill goes to the heart of the conflict outlined by Kern.

Trade Association and Regulator.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b3/Berckheyde%2C_Jan_-_A_Notary_in_His_Office_-_1672.jpg/378px-Berckheyde%2C_Jan_-_A_Notary_in_His_Office_-_1672.jpgThe State Bar of Arizona tries to be all things to all people — but it can’t. Through the years it has employed various semantical machinations to reframe its trade association functions as enhancements to the legal profession. At the same time, it has also articulated a competing mission to serve the public. Indeed, under an updated rule iteration, it now says its mission is “to serve and protect the public with respect to the provision of legal services and access to justice.”

Semantical gyrations notwithstanding, the regulator/trade association conflict of interest remains intractable and irreconcilable.

In addition to doing away with those conflicted interests, HB2295 also reinforces First Amendment free speech and associational freedoms. Proponents also contend it would help lower the high cost to practice law in the state. HB2295 is similar to last session’s HB2221, which fell 5 votes shy of reaching the governor’s desk for signing.

A Voluntary Bar.

Consistent with the Arizona Legislature’s prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government and its duty to uphold the Arizona Constitution, HB2300 provides that to the extent provided by the state constitution, all lawyer regulatory and public protection functions are transferred exclusively to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The bill also provides that an attorney shall not be required to be a member of any organization to become or remain a licensed attorney in Arizona. By eliminating compulsory bar membership, HB2300 remedially makes the determination by the Legislature that conditioning the practice of law on bar membership violates the rights to free speech and free association guaranteed by the Arizona Constitution.

California Bar Deunification.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Map_of_USA_highlighting_California.pngThe Arizona Legislature is not alone in its quest to reform the way lawyers are regulated. According to a report in the ABA Journal, during its last legislative session, the California Assembly “unanimously approved a bill that would have mandated a nonlawyer majority on the bar’s board of trustees to address the antitrust problem, and created a commission to study splitting the bar into a state agency that regulates lawyers and a separate private, voluntary trade group.”

The California Bill failed to pass after the Bar rallied opposition in the Senate. But the fight is far from over. It resumes this session. And the pressure for reform mounts. For example, because of policy changes to the governance of the California Bar that adversely impacted California Bar Section operations, including the Bar’s focus on its core regulatory functions, the Sections are currently considering separating from the Bar. The environment created in the past year, combined with the very high overhead and ever-increasing assessment the Sections are unilaterally mandated to pay, the environment has become too difficult for them to reasonably survive or thrive.

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Credit: UserpageCOI.svg, public domain, Wikimedia Commons; Berckheyde, Jan – A Notary in His Office – 1672.jpg, public domain, Wikimedia Commons; Map of USA highlighting California.png, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, Wikimedia Commons.

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Day 196 - Kicking Ass | by lintmachineIn 2012, a member referendum cut Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) dues from $480 to $325. Members were thrilled. Lawyers elsewhere were envious. From WSBA leaders, teeth-gnashing and underwear-twisting ensued. But truth be told, the panty-twisting began well ahead of the referendum. The sky was gonna fall. The Seattle Starks said “Winter is coming.”

The Big Payback.

Four years later on September 29, 2016, it was payback time. On that day, the WSBA Board of Governors and its executive director got their ‘gimme back.’ The Board approved substantial lawyer licensing fee increases starting next year and running through 2020. The first jump of 138% raises dues from $325 to $449 in 2018. Fees then bump up to $452 in 2019 before riding the Up escalator again in 2020 to $458. The hikes amount to a 141% increase over current fees.

Back on top.

As soon as 2018, the first increase to $449 puts Washington back in the top ten of highest mandatory bar dues states topping Idaho, Utah, Louisiana and California. Of the total 32 mandatory bar states, only Alaska, Oregon, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Nevada and of course, Arizona are higher.

Although the WSBA Board approved the increases last September, it wasn’t until this past January 5, 2017 that the score was truly evened. On that date the Washington Supreme Court approved the dues increases declaring them without explanation “reasonable” and in the alternative, ruled in the same Order again without explanation that the fees proposed through a new member license fee rollback petition “would not be reasonable.”

40+118 POW!! | by barkLicense fee rollback petition.

Following the WSBA Board’s dues vote last September, members took immediate steps under WSBA Bylaws that provide that within 90 days of a final decision of the Board of Governors, any active member may file a referendum to reverse or modify that decision. Consequently, a license fee rollback petition was timely filed to reject the 2018-2020 fees approved by the Board and to alternatively require that the fee amount for a given year not be increased by a greater percentage than the consumer price index (CPI) increased during the calendar year ending 12 months previous to the effective date of the increase.

Only 1,604 or 5% of the active membership were needed to qualify the petition. A total 2,180 WSBA members signed the petition. The Court gave no explanation other than the conclusory statement: “That the lawyer license fees proposed by the license fee rollback petition, if the petition were to pass, would not be reasonable both as to the level of fees that it proposes and as to the requirement that future license fee increases be tied to the consumer price index.”

Giving my bro a "good old kick up the arse" (AKA a "Bishop Brennan") outside Parochial House, County Kerry,Ireland. | by 2thin2swim

Later this month, the WSBA’s Board of Governors meets to decide whether or not to hold the referendum vote given the Court’s order rejecting the petition.

I’m not a Washington lawyer but they should still hold the vote — because even while the Board applauds the Court’s action while sitting on their hands, WSBA members will still want to kick some ass of their own.

 

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Credits: Day 196 – Kicking Ass, by lintmachine at Flickr via Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license; 40 + 118 POW!!, by bark at Flickr Creative Common Attribution license; Giving my bro “a good old kick up the arse,” by 2thin2swim at Flickr Creative Common Attribution license.

 

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petition | by League of Women Voters of CaliforniaA petition was filed today asking the Arizona Supreme Court to amend Rule 32(c) and (d) so as to split the functions of the State Bar of Arizona into two distinct subsets, a mandatory membership organization (“Mandatory Bar”) and a purely voluntary membership organization (“Voluntary Bar”). The amendment to the Court Rules would maintain the current mandatory membership requirement for all lawyers but (1) eliminate mandatory membership dues for non-regulatory functions and (2) allow voluntary contributions for all non-regulatory functions. Read the petition here.

The petition was filed by Sherman & Howard attorney Gregory Falls on behalf of the Goldwater Institute. By way of explanation on its website, the Goldwater Institute reiterates its opposition to “conditioning the practice of law on bar membership in Arizona because coerced membership violates the rights to free speech and free association guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions.”

It is for this reason, the Institute says it is “sponsoring a rule change petition to allow attorneys to practice law without being forced to fund the lobbying and other non-regulatory functions of the State Bar of Arizona.”

Change Management | by Jurgen AppeloThe petition is reminiscent of HB2221, which the petition acknowledges, “called for a less nuanced version of what Petitioner proposes here.” HB2221 came within 5 votes of clearing the Arizona Legislature and landing on the governor’s desk during the 2016 legislative session. Like today’s petition, HB2221 was modeled on the Nebraska Supreme Court’s bifurcated approach to bar membership articulated in its December 6, 2013 decision Petition For Rule To Create Vol. State Bar Assn. 286 Neb. 108.

j0289753The Nebraska Supreme Court ordered that the requirement be left in place mandating membership in the Nebraska State Bar Association. But the Court also lifted the requirement that attorneys fund the Nebraska Bar’s non-regulatory functions. This meant Nebraska attorneys still paid regulatory and disciplinary costs but were no longer forced to subsidize the Nebraska Bar’s speech and its non-regulatory activities.

In its website statement, the Goldwater Institute acknowledges that “the Nebraska Model falls short of the fully voluntary model used in 18 other states.” It adds, however, that Nebraska’s bifurcated model “is a significant positive step toward associational freedom.”

Another front.

The petition filing opens up another front in the long-term campaign to reform lawyer regulation in Arizona. Along with continuing legislative efforts, the goal is to remediate a system not only rife with inequity but which represents a continuing threat to consumers. In addition to impinging constitutional rights on lawyers by preconditioning membership in a trade association to earn a living in their chosen profession, mandatory bar associations have an inherent conflict of interest because they act as both regulators of and trade associations for lawyers. And that conflict of interest is further exacerbated when lawyers elect a controlling number of other lawyers to represent them in their own regulatory board. By its very nature, then, this cartel-protection system threatens capture of the regulatory board by lawyers at the expense of the public.

Jen, kissing the First Amendment goodbye? | by jasoneppinkConditioning the practice of law on bar membership also violates lawyers’ constitutional rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the only compelling state interest in coercive bar association membership is to improve the practice of law through lawyer regulation. But the fact is that lawyer regulation and improved legal practice can be attained through less restrictive means. 18 states — Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont — have already found ways to regulate attorneys without compelling membership

Arizona lawyers aren’t the only professionals concerned with a mandatory bar’s opacity, bureaucratic wastefulness, and divided loyalties to the public and lawyers. Indeed, attorney and public members of the California State Bar’s Board of Trustees are working again with California Legislators to bifurcate that Bar’s regulatory and trade association functions. See Calif. State Bar Blasted for Lack of Transparency  and Lawmakers Fight to Reform California Bar After Audits Skewer Agency for Mismanagement, Lack of Transparency, and Pricey Salaries.

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Credits: Petition, by League of Women Voters of California LWVC at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license; Change Management by Jurgen Appelo at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License; Jen, kissing the first amendment goodbye, by Jason Eppink at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx

Earlier this month, a white Austin lawyer filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against members of the Texas State Bar’s Board of Directors claiming the Bar is “violating the Equal Protection Clause by maintaining a race- and sex-based quota scheme on its Board of Directors.” Solo family law attorney Greg Gegenheimer alleged he’s being unconstitutionally discriminated against because the Texas Bar won’t consider him for one of the four board seats statutorily designated for minority members.

This is the latest of the Texas Bar’s constitutional kerfuffles. At the end of last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott accused the Bar of religious discrimination for refusing to accredit a continuing legal education (CLE) class on Christian ethical perspectives in the legal profession sponsored by San Antonio’s St. Mary’s University School of Law.

minority-director-soughtAs for Gegenheimer’s suit, Texas law states “four minority member directors appointed by the President of the State Bar” must serve on the Bar’s board. “Minority member” means a state bar member who is “female, African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, or Asian-American.” Gegenheimer’s complaint alleges the Bar is prohibiting white men from being nominated or even considered for the open minority-member positions posted for the board.

Seriously? Why would any lawyer pick a fight to sit on any compulsory membership state bar’s governing board — unless it was to disrupt the collection of sycophants, suck-ups and social climbers that calcify there?

Legal elites detest dissenters — but if Gegenheimer wants to sit on the board as a disruptive force — well more power to him.

The preferable constitutional battle.

But a squabble over bar quotas is merely an undercard. The main event, the better bout is defending the First Amendment free speech and free association rights of Texas lawyers by eradicating compulsory membership in the Texas Bar. Now that’s the fight worth having.

https://i0.wp.com/wiki.ncac.org/images/e/ed/FirstAmendment.jpgAnd as for filling its minority-member vacancies, the Texas Bar most likely can’t persuasively argue a sufficient constitutional interest for imposing a sex and race based quota for appointments to its board. (Not to say there hasn’t been a basis for assuring some semblance of minority representation in Texas given the Lone Star State’s rather inglorious past and recent history).

Rather than contesting race and sex based numerical requirements, Texas lawyers should be revisiting the still dubious foundations of coercive bar association membership. Granted, the only compelling state interest the U.S. Supreme Court has found to justify it is improving the practice of law through the regulation of attorneys. Yet 18 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont—have already found ways to regulate attorneys without compelling membership. To say that in Texas and in 31 other jurisdictions that this interest cannot be achieved through less restrictive means, simply ignores reality. Mandating membership in any state bar association crosses “the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate”1 when there are less restrictive means available.

Meantime, you can read Gegenheimer’s complaint here. His suit is being backed by the Project on Fair Representation, an organization which calls itself “a public interest organization dedicated to the promotion of equal opportunity and racial harmony.” It goes on to add, “The Project works to advance race-neutral principles in the areas education, public contracting, public employment, and voting.”

In actuality, I seriously doubt Gegenheimer wants to serve as one of the board’s minority-member designees. After obtaining a declaratory judgment that the minority-member law violates the Equal Protection Clause, what he really wants is a preliminary and a permanent injunction preventing the Bar from enforcing that law.

Yet the broader view is for Texas lawyers and other lawyers forced to join bar associations as preconditions to practice to instead work to protect their fundamental rights of free speech and freedom from coerced association that forces them to pay compulsory dues whether or not they subscribe to the viewpoints, activities and agendas of that association.

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1Knox v. Service Employees Intern. Union, 132 S. Ct. 2277, 2291 (2012).

Credits: Groucho Marx caricature drawn by Greg Williams via Wikipedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License; FirstAmendment.jpg under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

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El Pato | by ArmandoH2OTwo days before Thanksgiving, the State Bar of Arizona served up official notice of what I’m characterizing as a layered roast of poultry called a turducken. For gourmands, a turducken is a culinary dish consisting of a deboned chicken stuffed into the gastric cavity of a deboned duck, that’s then stuffed into the business end of a turkey and roasted.

The Arizona Bar’s pre-holiday version is a different kind of three-bird fowl. The Bar’s turducken consists of a turkey misnomered a “Public Service Center” engastrated by a lead generation platform that purports to expand access to justice because persons looking online for lawyers are referred to lawyers looking for clients.

Turducken | by sueanddannyThe smallest bird in the Bar’s three-bird roast is the hen-sized pro-bono component that aspires to help the poor by finding lawyers willing to work for free. The cost for all this stuffed fowl is estimated to run $300,000 per year paid for by all Arizona lawyers — whether or not they make use of the new customer acquisition tool dressed up in public relations garb.

The news came by way of a blast email transmitted November 22nd by State Bar President Lisa Loo who cloaked the announcement as its response to an Arizona Supreme Court rule amendment that states:

“The State Bar of Arizona exists to serve and protect the public with  respect to the provision of legal services and access to justice. Consistent with these goals, the State Bar of Arizona seeks to improve the administration of justice and the competency, ethics, and professionalism of lawyers practicing in Arizona.”

File:Turduckenhen.jpgHow this broadly written rule automatically translates into more Bar employees; an expanded bureaucracy; a new business deal with a third-party tech marketing provider; and a new $300,000 annual expense is a testament to how self-serving bureaucrats will always be drawn to bigger bureaus.

Along the way, the Bar says its “Center will work with existing legal aid and referral services as well as other community partners to increase opportunities for the public and our members to connect.” What the introduction of a competing online lawyer referral vehicle means to the likes of the voluntary county bar association’s long running revenue-generating lawyer referral service remains to be seen.

“The Bar is still a member organization, and we intend to maintain the many programs that support and enhance the practice of law throughout Arizona,” the Bar President goes on to declare in her email. Said another way, the bottomless bureaucratic maw will always be fed so long as lawyers are forced to join a mandatory trade association as a precondition to practice law in Arizona.

Turducken easter06.jpgThe blast email letter closes with an oblivious admission — that underscores the root of the Bar’s problem. The State Bar of Arizona has an irreconcilable conflict of interest in claiming to both protect the public from its lawyers while at the same time serving the interests of those lawyers. Memo to the Bar: The interests of the public aren’t always the same as the interests of lawyers.

“Our job today,” the email explains, “is to find the best way to help both the public and our members.” The Bar thinks that by running a client lead-generator to grow the business of its members it will also help the public’s access to justice. How that exactly helps the large swath of Arizonans who can’t afford to hire a lawyer is left unexplained. And by the same kind of magical thinking, the Bar incredulously asserts this new business-generator will ‘oh-by-the-way’ also help expand legal services to the indigent.

The final tidbit of disingenuity is a solicitation for “your thoughts regarding this initiative.” As previously related, the Bar’s Board of Governors has already voted overwhelmingly in favor of the initiative and has even green-lighted its inclusion in the Bar’s 2017 fiscal budget. No wonder the Bar says it “will do so within our existing budget.”

Asking members after-the-fact for their thoughts clearly amounts to window dressing – a cynical pose of regard. And it’s about as worthwhile as asking the chicken and the duck what they think about being stuffed up a turkey.

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Credits: “El Pato,” by Armando Aguayo Rivera at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Turducken by Sue & Danny Yee at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Turducken by Engelmann at Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Share-alike attribution license; Turducken by Bojangles at Wikimedia Commons public domain.

 

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No more “moldy mayonnaise.” Holidays and salad days are here again. “Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs” — nonsense! The lawyer glut must be over. Let the good times roll! Or at least that’s what you might conclude on news an online law school is seeking permission to matriculate students with the goal of having its graduates in Arizona apply for admission to practice in the state.

There are 205 American Bar Association-accredited law schools in the United States. In virtually all jurisdictions, only ABA-accredited law school graduates may sit for a respective state bar exam to gain admission to practice. But according to Concord Law School at Kaplan University, there’s room for one more exception — for Arizonans.

On November 9, 2016 Concord Law School (CLS) Dean Martin Pritikin asked the Arizona Supreme Court to amend its rules to permit not just ABA-accredited law school graduates to apply for Arizona admission but to also let graduates from “an online law school approved by one of the six regional accreditors federally recognized by the Department of Education.” That description conveniently applies to CLS.

Never mind that 65 percent of law schools recently surveyed — by Kaplan Test Prep no less — say there are too many law schools. Survey respondents even said it “would be a good idea if at least a few law schools closed.” 

From these responses, it’s clear too many law schools equals too much competition for students. And talk about timing, one law school just announced plans to close on June 30, 2017. Indiana Tech will shut down its law school less than one year after the ABA gave it provisional accreditation.

As for Concord’s petition, you can read it here. It explains why CLS is not only less expensive but why it’s supposedly as good as ABA-accredited law schools. The petitioner explains, “CLS admits a lower percentage of its applicants than nearly half of ABA schools. During the most recent administration of the California bar exam (by many accounts the most difficult in the nation) for which data is currently available, CLS graduates’ first-time pass rates were within nearly one point of those of California ABA schools, and were a point higher than those of out-of-state ABA schools.”

And Concord’s research of U.S. Census and ABA data even allows it to claim “Arizona has a below-average number of lawyers . . . 1 for every 417 people, as compared to 1 for 247 people nationwide.” Either ratio sounds like a lot of lawyers per capita. But alas, the ‘sweet spot’ for lawyers per capita remains a mystery. Bottom line, it must be whatever the lawyer cartel says it is.

But no matter. If like the State Bar of Arizona, access-to-justice means access-to-lawyers, then what’s one more outlet for law degree sheepskins and lawyers in the state? This is why, says the petitioner, Arizona needs what Concord is selling.

“Arizona has three ABA law schools, only one of which offers a part-time program. Millions of Arizona residents do not live within commuting distance of these schools. CLS’s flexible online format makes law school accessible to those whose geography, work or family responsibilities, military service, or other life circumstances prevent them from attending traditional campus-based institutions. Allowing CLS graduates to sit for Arizona’s bar exam would create new educational opportunities for the state’s residents, as well as expand access to legal services in underrepresented areas. This is particularly important for Native Americans living on reservations within the state’s borders, who are in great need of, but will have little access to, legal education–and thus legal services–without a fully online option.”

Just the same, good luck making your case Concord. You’ll need it. Thanks to the Arizona legal establishment’s persistent protectionism, I’ve little doubt the knives will be out to keep market barriers secure and would-be competitors out.

 

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West of Phoenix on Friday, an emu was loose on the interstate. Fortunately for the wingless relation of the ostrich, thanks to a state agricultural official’s lasso, troopers were able to corral the gregarious ratite without injury to bird or motorists.

Coincidentally, the same day something else was loose at the State Bar of Arizona —- folly. But unfortunately for lawyers forced to join to earn a lawyer’s living, there was no lassoing the Bar’s latest imprudent expenditure of mandatory member monies.

https://i0.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/161022000320-az-emu-1-exlarge-169.jpgBy a vote of 15 to 4, the Arizona Bar’s board of governors kowtowed to the glib nostrums of the Bar CEO and especially, the vehement urgings of its immediate past president. Exhorted to vote in favor so the expenditure could be included in the 2017 budget, the latter further warned “the train had left the station” if they didn’t approve a new online lawyer referral platform masquerading as a “Public Service Center.” 

Forget the reference to the 19th century technology locomotive out of the same mouth extolling a supposed innovation. And ignore the inconvenient fact the new program preserves the status quo. The Bar remains atavistic middleman preserving its self-governance privilege to protect — not disrupt its economic cartel.

The proposal was ramrodded through with the understanding that specific details and funding could be modified after the proposal was further studied and submitted to the membership for their comments. Good luck unringing that bell.

So much for due diligence. Act in haste, repent at leisure, especially when it’s not your money.

Don’t call it uberization.

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The online lawyer referral was demoed by the third-party provider, “Legal Services Link, LLC,” who touted it as in step with the uberization of services to consumers. That’s rich since it’s lawyers and their guilds who keep “fighting uberization of the law.”  Moreover, as presented, the technology neither disrupts the market or lowers consumer costs. What it does do is expand the Bar’s bureaucracy, grow overhead, and ultimately increase member costs with no choice but to pony up.

Ironically, this online lawyer referral platform a.k.a the Public Service Center is being sold as a way to purportedly enhance “access to justice” by supposedly making it easier for the public to hire lawyers and secondarily, for the indigent to find pro bono legal help. The Bar CEO even proclaimed the platform would provide a safe harbor for lawyers and consumers. Of course when pressed, the third-party provider and the CEO both walked back that breathtaking assurance by disclaiming any liability — as though lawyer users would expect a modicum of disciplinary liability cover or consumers would be assured of always competent, ethical legal services.

No, the $300,000 Center allegedly helps fulfill the latest state supreme court-ordered iteration of the Bar’s mission. The new mission effective 1/1/17 includes “enhancing the administration of and access to justice.” In truth, though, this expensive new initiative does more to promote ‘access to lawyers’ than ‘access to justice.’

And save for allowing the poor with Internet access to post their legal needs, I don’t know how the platform will “move the dial on pro bono” as the CEO pronounced. Who’s kidding who? How exactly does it “increase and incentivize pro bono” as he also proclaimed? Hold your breath for details.

Persons seeking legal assistance complete an online form stating their legal needs to create a “legal project.” This enables Arizona lawyer participants to review the paid or pro bono project. If interested, they then disclose their profiles, fees (if applicable) and other relevant information to the would-be client.

The Bar thinks its online referral platform will generate $120,000 in revenues to help defray the $300,000 annual hit to its budget. This must mean that in addition to paying for it with existing mandatory membership funds, the Bar plans on charging participants an additional fee.

Fear and loathing.

I attended the board meeting to inform myself and to comment as warranted. But in a testament to the bar’s continued opacity and its abiding aversion to dissent, the board president allowed just two minutes of public comment before not after the proposal was presented. Is there any wonder there’s so much fear and loathing of the Bar?

A representative of the local county voluntary bar association was given the same short shrift to comment without any proposal details in advance. Understandably, the local county association is concerned since it runs its own lawyer referral service, which now appears under threat from the Bar’s competing program.

Board members discover fire.

As a side note, I was surprised some board members appeared so impressed by the third-party presentation. You’d have thought they’d just witnessed the discovery of fire. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the digital marketplace has been offering similar consumer to lawyer matching services for sometime.

As a matter of fact, one wonders why the Bar apparently singled-sourced a provider instead of making requests for proposals. Other competing providers include, for example, Axiom, LawDingo, Lawyer.com, Legal Match, UpCounsel, LegalZoom, and RocketLawyer. The latter even had a short-lived pilot partnership with the ABA until all hell broke loose from protectionist forces.

And as a final side note, it was just a few years ago that the Bar invested significant sums of member monies to upgrade its website and online “Find a Lawyer” directory. Now it means to replace its online member directory via a third-party provider. So much for the return on that earlier investment.

And interestingly but hardly surprising was the added disclosure that the Public Service Center and its two new employees will be part of the Bar’s government affairs group. This is the legislative advocacy department that monitors the Bar’s legislative priorities. This makes perfect sense, given the comments of several board members.

It’s fair to say the Public Service Center is primarily a public relations gambit — a tool intended to serve and protect the Bar’s bureaucratic hide from further threatened reforms from the state legislature. As one board member put it, the Public Service Center will enable the Bar to trumpet to the legislature how much ‘good’ it’s doing for the public.

Despite that, the conflicted regulator/trade association Bar will nevertheless face a challenge. How will it square a trade association lawyer referral “access to justice” service generating business for lawyers with any regulatory semblance of public protection?

Portland Urban Iditarod | by Misserion

Misserion via Flickr attribution license

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