Can Law Firms or #AltLaw Turn Clients Into Lobbyists?

The Harvard Business Journal reports that companies like Uber and Air BnB – new entrants to regulated incumbent markets –  are gaining success in breaking down barriers by mobilizing customers to become political advocates. For example, Uber has used online petitioners to demonstrate consumer and voter support for its services in cities where it has met resistance from local taxi companies.

Political action isn’t limited to big kahunas like Uber.  Home-based bakers and food truck operators have also mobilized their customers through online petitioners to challenge laws that would handicap their business and give established restaurants and bakeries a continued advantage.

Some companies like Air BnB have taken activism a step farther by sponsoring a club that connects its consumers with each other and encouraging those groups to engage in advocacy. Airbnb’s “home sharing clubs educate hosts about regulatory and political challenges, and facilitate meetings with politicians, letter-writing campaigns, media interviews, and public rallies.” In San Francisco, Airbnb clubs helped counter a proposal to restrict short-term rentals.

Can lawyers or #altlaw companies adopt a similar approach for their clients? Why not. Although confidentiality restrictions preclude lawyers from introducing clients to each other, there’s no reason why a law firm trying to bring about change in an established industry couldn’t form a trade association or sponsor a Change.org petition to further clients’ interests. Lawyers could also team up with lawyers in other states to lobby on their clients behalf.

There are even more opportunities for #altlaw and legal vendors to change the onerous ethics regulations that prevent lawyers from taking advantage of online platforms. Companies could encourage customers to advocate on their behalf before state bar associations and provide benefits such as product discounts in exchange.

So the next time that you feel discouraged that your disruptor clients can’t get a foot in the door, take a page from what other industries are doing and mobilize your clients for change.

 

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