Last night, I attended what I hope to be the first of many Online Bar Association functions. Jorge Colon and Mayra Colon hosted a small get together at Sage in Hollywood. Now generally, I have my aversion to “networky” events. For better or worse, I tend to avoid these types of things like the plague (probably for the worse). I have no real, rational reason for avoiding these types of gatherings beyond slight stage fright and a quiet disdain for some of the personalities that are “attorneys.” All that said, I have found myself enticed, or curious at least, by the excitement, intent and overall positive energy that comes from Jorge and Mayra. And so I as I finished up my day, I wandered down to join the group.
What is interesting about the OBA and its members thus far, is the twinge of mystery that still lingers. As introductions were made, you still got the sense that people were excited and yet somewhat unsure why we had been gathered together. Was it purely networking? Was it to highlight the coming storm of virtual law practice? Was it a referral service? I have to admit, although I keep up with these things as best as I can, and I have followed the OBA since its inception, I too was a bit miffed. I knew that I liked the overall theme and I knew that I craved something more forward thinking in my profession, but I wasn’t sure what “it” really was. Now, I can’t speak for others, a nice mixture of veteran litigators, in house counsel, fresh attorneys, bitter attorneys, non attorneys, and gentle attorneys (about twenty of us), but within the first sentences of Jorge’s prelude, I got it, a light bulb went off. I realized that it was not an attempt to replicate the local bar association via the web. It was not a cheap ploy to collect dues on your existence as an attorney and a citizen of the web. It was and is a proactive approach to taking on the legal profession and trying to make it meld with the realities of modern life, modern commerce.
This was a perfectly succinct moment for me (one that actually helped wisp away a bit of the jitters). Here was a plan, not fully revealed, to get ahead of the curve. In a recent Linked In thread, there was a discussion about the battle over VLOs and brick and mortar. It was premised by the Twitter debate (not really worth a link) between Stephanie Kimbro and Brian Tennebaum. The LinkedIn thread lead by Jorge Colon and commented on by Donna Seyles and others was spot on. This recent riff in the online legal community, slightly comical battle between the old and the new is pointless, and that is the jumping off point for the OBA. We can argue and define who is a virtual lawyer, who is a slackoisie, and who is an old curmudgeon all we want. The truth is, we all use technology to advance our practice, in some form, even the old curmudgeons. From cell phones to carbon copy dot matrix printers, we use technology. We will continue to use more and more technology, replace old technology and so on, as tools to be used. The issue with the legal profession has always been that they are late to the game. Telefonic hearings are just making it to court rooms while normal business is conducted through virtual workspaces and video chat. Debates rage over the privacy of client files (even though they are sent via email) while people shop and do their personal banking over the web. This is where the OBA is, at least at first blush, unique. The vision is to maintain the integrity of the legal profession by shaping the tools and the resources proactively to fit the needs of its individuals. The hope, then, would be to prevent attorneys, and therefore rules of ethics and professionalism, from being caught down stream, while at the same time being part of a community.
Ironically, the same notions are being used to defend the battle lines drawn between the VLOs and the brick and mortars. Uphold the profession and embrace technology as it requires. The difference is that arguments are made to defend a point of view. The OBA is about defining a community, regardless of point of view. That is what is intended, now we must wait and see if it can come to fruition.
Thank you so very much for the invitation, Jorge and Mayra. And it was a pleasure meeting each and everyone. I look forward to more meetings in the future.