ABA Announces Death of Partnership with Rocket LawyerA few weeks ago, the ABA announced that its partnership with Rocket Lawyer — which it described in 2014 as an opportunity to “explore expanded opportunities for lawyers online” and “to expand legal services to those who need a lawyer’s counsel but are not currently being served for reasons ranging from affordability to ease of access” — is dead.

According to The American Lawyer, the partnership was killed by strong opposition from local and state bar groups for fear it would take away from those groups’ referral services, which are an important revenue-generator for the associations.

The ABA and Rocket Lawyer teamed up on a pilot project called ABA Law Connect last October in three states — California, Illinois and Pennsylvania — which targeted small business owners. For $4.95, a business owner could ask a question online to a member lawyer. If they were interested in learning more, they could discuss the matter further in a lawyer-client relationship.

Bar groups from Illinois and Pennsylvania quickly moved to block the project. The Illinois State Bar and the Pennsylvania Bar Association posted a statement on their websites calling it “misguided and ill-conceived.” The statement also said the program reflects “a ‘Blue Plate Special’ mentality and naïve understanding of the scope of legal services that thousands of lawyers in Pennsylvania, California and Illinois currently provide to small businesses in our states.”

Although included in that statement, the State Bar of California did not object to the program (although the Bar Association of San Francisco did). Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, executive director of the State Bar of California, told The American Lawyer, “I thought it was exciting that they’re really interested in serving this huge group that is underserved.”

In 2014, Rocket Lawyer founder and CEO Charley Moore had heralded the partnership as a “pioneering effort to democratize access to legal counsel using technology,” applauding the ABA for “working with us to find new ways to expand legal representation from qualified attorneys through video and mobile technologies.”

Now Moore says he is disappointed, but still expects to collaborate with “forward-thinking” bar associations. “We are disappointed that a few individuals chose protecting their lawyer referral revenue and high fees over innovation, fair competition and the public’s need for wider access to attorney advice,” he said.


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