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Interesting piece in the Boston Globe today: Zenas Zelotes, a bankruptcy lawyer in Connecticut is “fighting the good fight” against for-profit lawyer referrals through on-line services, like Total Attorneys, Inc. of Chicago. Apparently, the ethics counsel in some of the 47 states Mr. Zelotas has filed his more than 550 ethics complaints agree – Chief Disciplinary Counsel in Connecticut, Mark DuBois, has found probable cause against 5 of 12 attorneys named by Zelotes.
Some may view Zelotes’ actions and DuBois’ move a blow to innovating in the on-line realm, and DuBois communicates his ambivalence in the article about enforcing existing rules in our Brave New World.
On the other side of the feud is Attorney Kevin Chern, the Chicago Lawyer who developed Total Attorneys, Inc. Chern merely states in the article that Zelote’s actions are “anticompetitive.”
New means of advertising, packaging and delivering legal product undoubtedly clash with our “traditional” legal practice, an industry that moves at the speed of dinosaur on many levels. But is that a problem here? Do the ethical rules developed in the context of a vastly different economy make sense in the wake of game-changing global financial crises and rocketing technological developments or are they a necessary check to Chern’s 200-mph sports car product? I am not sure, but I do know these questions merit review of the benefits and drawbacks of innovation. I do know that our profession needs to examine change, and that includes the ethical rules that purport to guide the profession and ensure protection of client interests. Clients need to be heard as well, and I have no question in my mind that dollars and cents will play a role in their answers to these questions.