As one of the few bloggers covering the solo and small law firm space, I try to stay current on what’s new in the legal tech world. So after learning just a few days ago that a class action for overbilling was filed two years ago against Ruby Receptionists,an answering service popular with lawyers, boy was my face ruby at having missed the news.
So I backtracked, trying to figure out what I’d overlooked. I searched through the blog and site that I track in my news aggregator – but the story hadn’t been covered anywhere. And that’s not necessarily a criticism; after all, journalists are busy and this story likely fell through the cracks. However, what’s also troubling is that none of the bar associations where Ruby has apparently advertised disclosed the class action against Ruby either. So this got me to wondering — to what extent must a bar association or legal media publication perform due diligence on a product that pays sponsorship or advertising fees.
In the case of Ruby Receptionists, the merits of the lawsuit could potentially impact a lawyer’s decision on whether to use the product. In the suit filed in federal court , the two plaintiffs were law firms who alleged that:
Ruby systematically breaches its agreements with clients by charging for time callers are on hold, rounding up its billable receptionist time, neglecting to disclose these practices, and failing to make available all the receptionist time Ruby contracted to provide.
To be fair, the lawsuit is still ongoing, the plaintiffs’ claims haven’t been adjudicated and Ruby may even be exonerated. But even so, a lawsuit alleging overcharging and non-disclosure is a relevant data point for lawyers to consider, or at least investigate further when choosing providers. That’s why the information needs to be out there.
Over the years, my blog has accepted ads from various sponsors. But I’ve always been circumspect about the companies that I’ll allow to post. (in fact, I have a short blacklist though I don’t share it publicly) And when I learn about lawsuits or regulatory actions involving marketing and #altlaw companies – like this one this one or this one. It’s the price I pay for writing in this space. But speaking out also enhances my credibility because when I do accept a sponsor or compliment a product, my opinion carries weight.
More recently, the matter of sponsorship has taken on new significance in light of the upcoming Lawyer+Mom+Owner Virtual Summit where we are actively soliciting sponsorship to support the conference and more importantly, to compensate our speakers. Yet much as we’d like the financial support, we screen our sponsors. Just as MyShingle readers know that they can trust the advertisers at my blog, I intend to carry that practice over to the conference. Our conference also does not allow “pay for play” where we’ll put speakers on a panel because they paid a hefty sponsorship fee.
Many lawyers rely on bar associations and the legal trade press to vet products. They often assume that if a product is legit if written up in a bar journal or by a reputable blogger. If that’s the case, then those write about or promote products in the legal space have a heightened obligation to inform readers not just about the upside of a company….but also the downside.
If you run a company with a business targeting LawyerMomOwner attendees, contact me directly for sponsorship opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re interested in attending the conference or getting additional information, visit the conference website at www.lawyermomownersummit.