When I’m asked to list the resources that have helped improve my competency as a lawyer, I’d place blogs and listserves high on the list. In particular, the guidance that I’ve received from that mother-of-all-solo-listserves, Solosez has helped me tackle issues far more effectively than I could have on my own, while other feedback has enabled me to avert unwanted conflicts and difficult clients.
But the lawyer LISTSERV has become a place where lazy lawyers fool themselves into thinking they can get questions answered and avoid associating with more qualified lawyers. I suspect they do this for several reasons, none worthy of discussion because no excuse is good enough for me when the client’s interests are being subjugated to the lawyer’s…The lawyers I’m referring to who misuse the LISTSERV are lawyers with enough experience to know better. They are usually on their own, sole practitioners with a history of taking cases they have no business taking and who regularly settle cases without ever trying one. They advertise themselves as being trial lawyers but have very little trial experience.
Lombardi argues that trial association listserves must do a better job of monitoring the lists to weed out or discourage “inexperienced lawyers” who “con their way into a case” and use the listserve as a fallback.
I don’t agree with Lombardi. In my view, the availability of a listserve doesn’t give lawyers added incentive to take cases beyond their competency. Even before listserves, lawyers accepted cases beyond their skills for a variety of reasons: sometimes to gain experience, sometimes because of greed and sometimes because they don’t even know that they’re out of their depth. Rather than exacerbate this problems, listserves offer a solution, by serving as a lifeline to lawyers in over their head. Cutting lawyers’ access to listserves will guarantee that they’ll be flying blind in a case, which will harm the client even more.
In addition, on some of the best listserves, lawyers will exchange advice as a matter of professional courtesy and build relationships with other lawyers, who may eventually bring the other lawyer on board or refer the case out. In fact, some of the lawyers who gain the most business from listserves are those who give the most freely of their advice, just like some of the bloggers who are most generous with free information (think for example, the Miller and Zois help center that posts dozens of free documents that help other PI lawyers) are also the most respected.
Lombardi sounds as if he’s tired of giving away advice. Fair enough. If that’s the case, Lombardi ought to leave the listserve – not shut it down for everyone else.
Note: I’m made some minor stylistic changes since the original post.