About Our Guest
Mark C. PalmerMark C. Palmer serves as Chief Counsel under the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism to facilitate the promotion of professionalism, civility, and integrity among our lawyers and judges in Illinois. Mark supports the legal and judicial systems to better provide equitable, efficient, and effective service to the ... Learn More
Jump ahead to the bonus interview https://youtu.be/B0667j2VYRE?t=1597
Mark C. Palmer is the Chief Counsel of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism (2civility.org). Mark leads programming on professionalism, integrity, and outreach initiatives including a mentoring program for new lawyers. Serving as am Adjunct Profession at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign, mark an expert at educational programming for lawyers as wells as law students.
Mark frequently writes for 2Civility filling their blog with topics from ethics to technology.
– Thanks for joining us. This is our extended interview with Mark Palmer, the Chief Counsel of 2 Civility. The first part of this video is from our GNGF Live, which happens every other Wednesday on our Facebook page. The second part here in this bonus extended interview, we dive into more about virtual offices, the disappearing rural lawyers and the future of law. If you already saw the live, I’ll put the timestamp to the exclusive extended interview below. And be sure to like and subscribe to follow along with all of our great conversations on legal marketing and the business side of running a law firm. And to watch this video on the platform of your choice you can find everywhere we stream at GNGF.tv. Welcome to GNGF Live your bi weekly ask the experts about all things law firm marketing and business growth. I’m Mark Homer, author of Online Law Practice Strategies and founder of Get Notice Get Found. On this show, we focus on the business side of growing and running your law firm. So I’m really excited to have today’s guest, Mark Palmer, the chief counsel of 2 Civility. Now 2 Civility is a communication channel for the Commission on professionalism at the Illinois Supreme Court. Their goal is to help promote integrity, professionalism, and civility with judges and lawyers in Illinois. We have a whole host of great topics to cover with Mark today, so stay tuned. And as always, be sure to like and subscribe to our page, not just a video, so you get updated when our next episode goes live. And of course, it never hurts for you to show a little love and smash that like button on the video too. It really helps us with Facebook and YouTube algorithms. We’ve got moderators in the chat, so please ask questions and interact during this premiere. If you’re watching this in the future, after the premiere, we do still monitor comments and we’ll reach out to our guests and answer any follow up questions you have. It’s because we love you all and we love getting to meet you. Now online and in person. You can find a list of our upcoming webinars and events where we’re gonna be speaking at our website gngf.com/events. On weeks when we’re not premiering an interview we drop a video as part of our GNGF tip series. These are in depth videos focusing on one topic at a time. You can check it out on our YouTube page or by just heading to gngf.tv. You can watch our latest video after this interview, of course, at that link in the chat. So check them out. Like I said, we dropped a new GNGF tip video every other Friday. All right, let’s get to the interview. Mark Palmer, thanks for joining me today.
– Hey, Mark, thanks for having me.
– Absolutely. So, let’s talk a little bit about 2 Civility. So your chief counsel over there at 2 Civility. For the listeners like what is 2 Civility?
– Well 2 Civility is kind of our brand name, our trade name. But our full title is the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on professionalism which we get tired of saying ’cause it’s such a mouthful, and that’s what kind of led to the 2 Civility brand that we implemented about five years ago. But our entity in and of itself is a little over 10 years old. We actually sit under the Supreme Court in Illinois. We’re one commission there, so we technically report to and work for the justices of the Supreme Court in Illinois. And we also report to a group of Commissioners that are appointed by the justices, which are both lawyers and other professionals throughout the state, so there’s a geographic representation. But our funding, our work, our funding is 100% through attorney registration fees and the like, so we are funded in the judiciary to a degree. But we do our work not only for lawyers and judges and law students in Illinois, there’s nine law schools in Illinois, and almost 100,000 lawyers registered in Illinois. I think it’s the third largest state, of number of lawyers registered, we’ll talk a little bit more about that later. So we’re a small office, but we do a lot of work. Some people refer to us as the proactive disciplinary commission. We don’t, that’s a totally separate commission. I’m not the prosecutor for lawyers to be disciplined in the like a lot of people get that confused. We’re more of the educators. But we also have a large focus on future issues. Future law issues that can involve technology, but that can involve other things, which I look forward to talking about some of those today.
– Absolutely, and that’s one of the reasons that we’ve had conversations at conferences I’m like, oh, man, you are like the intersection of so much cool stuff, so it’s not just legal technology, but actually how it really applies to the practice of law and some of the gotchas so that people could fall into that could kind of take away from the appropriate practice right. So I wanted to have you on. So thank you for joining me. So real quick, give a little bit about your work background. How did that kind of like lead into this role? It’s a very unique role that you have.
– Yeah. First of all, there’s not many commissions like this in the United States, let alone in the world. There’s a few out there but to have this opportunity has been fantastic. I’ve been sitting in this role for five years now. As now Chief Counsel for our commission. I’m one of three lawyers that do this full time along with our Executive director and our deputy director. But before that I was in private practice for a decade in a small firm in Champaign, Illinois, which is a midsize city. Got the University of Illinois right in our backyard, which is actually where I’m sitting right now. I have an office at the College of Law here, where I’ve been an adjunct professor for years over a decade. Taught trial team I was mostly a trial attorney. A lot of time in the courtroom, love the courtroom, still miss it. I actually do do pro bono work, so I do get my nose in the courtroom as best I can. But I like to say I’ve been in law for about 20 years now. I started as a police officer, I was your typical beat Cop. Working drugs and gangs, decided that wasn’t my life goal and career and quickly pivoted to going to law school in Chicago while I worked a full time day job in the corporate world, in an International Corporation. So I got all kinds of great diverse experience by having that all behind me, which really helped me I think, frankly become a good lawyer and understand my client’s problems better as I stepped into that role. Helping all kinds, I was really a general practitioner, did everything, every day was different.
– Okay, okay.
– I often equate that like being a police officer, you never know what the next call is gonna be. It can be the puppy in the tree or shots fired. Same thing in the law office, for most of those small solo practitioners out there, I feel for you. Saw some changes in my practice in my firm on the forefront and decided to see what other career options were out there and fell into this position. And it’s been fantastic having these unique opportunities to meet our mission to, it sounds kind of cheesy to say, but it’s very true, we’re trying to always improve the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of the delivery of justice. And there’s so many ways you can do that on the ground level, with legal education, with existing lawyers, new and old, with the judges, and with the public. And so we try and hit all that in one big package. But I like to bring all that history into how I do my job today and it serves me well.
– That’s great. Yeah, I know Mark, I’m I could see how that diverse experience would provide, ’cause you’re having to, study things of where things are going, but also what things have been done and how we’ve been doing them and what makes sense to keep doing and what maybe you should recommend we changed a little bit. So some of the conversations I now see where your background kind of fits in those conversations that have been fascinating to me in the past.
– Yeah, think back you come across especially, in law school, you come across a lot of professors and not all of them by any means, but you come across who’s never practice law in their day. And some judges in fact, sadly, to say, but you realize, have they ever made payroll? Have they run a small office? Have they done the business of law aside? And all those important yet very difficult and time consuming and demanding parts of being a good lawyer, a quality lawyer and delivering to your clients at the end of the day.
– That’s awesome. I mean, you spoke business of law is what we’d like to focus on here on the show. So I want to dive into a post you created on, like four ethical questions around a virtual office, which, by the way, your blog, and people should check out the articles and stuff you write A lot of good stuff in there, for anybody, I mean, not just Illinois, right? I mean, it’s just some of the stuff applies and you may need to kind of like, map it to your own rules and stuff but, you talked about some of the different questions. So what were some of the things what did you come up with as like kind of a big things people either aren’t thinking about or maybe should be thinking about when it comes to a virtual law office. ‘Cause of COVID right? I mean, that’s that kind of became a big hot topic.
– And right when this all started back in February, March is when I thought, I got to write about this right now. ‘Cause people, they’ve got to pivot, they’ve got to change and they gotta change fast, but they cannot forget their ethical responsibility. It’s just like everything every day you start your day, that code of conduct is always a cloud in the sky above you as it should be. And not just the ethical rules, but to go beyond that to the issues of the tenants of professionalism, civility, those pillars of how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. So I looked at, okay, what’s specific to a virtual office? How is that different? And I’ve done this with a lot of technology questions, and we’ll talk more about other types of technology questions, but at the end of the day, you’re not changing the rules to apply to a new situation, you’re applying the same rules to a new situation. And many times that can work out just fine, it’s just are you still doing it correctly? Are you keeping in mind those tech changes are being applied appropriately. And the perfect example right off the bat is, what jurisdiction Are you talking about here? It seems simple to say that but we, the flattening of all the economies and industries as this world has advanced technology and otherwise, it’s very simple to have contact with people outside your geographic area, and where you may be licensed in this instance. So, you got to be very mindful that someone connecting with you online, virtually sending you an email, etc, engaging you from that onset, you gotta be crystal clear are they in my jurisdiction? Am I licensed to actually give them legal advice? It sounds simplistic, but it’s so simple so that you can forget about it. And, there’s been, I write about a great example, that some of you may have heard where the lawyer from Denver, was helping his in laws, his own family right, in Minnesota deal with a small, not a big deal debt collection issue, and just had simple email correspondence with the attorney for the collector, and that turned into realization at the end of the day that he was, according to the Minnesota Supreme Court, he was doing some UPL there and got in trouble for it. Right. He was never soliciting for clients or anything in the like but, he wasn’t quite careful enough. It’s not the driver’s license, where you can just cross the state borders and not even realize he did so. So that’s one main aspect. Yeah.
– Yeah. And, looking, getting clients through, like telling people on Facebook, and, Google obviously doesn’t really care about state lines so, the law firms need to be thinking about that. You also talked about technology in that too, just with the change of virtual I mean, whether it be like zoom or just everything in the cloud and like were there any, ’cause I think we’ve been talking about it for a little bit in terms of like cloud use and things to be aware of it from ethics perspective. Were there anything kind of really quickly moving to a virtual law office that you saw people maybe missing the boat a little bit on or forgetting about?
– The technology aspect is also, especially with virtual and especially right now as we’re talking and we’ve talked many times in person before this, but now we’re relegated to this type of talking, right.
– And it’s the same with your clients, it’s the same with courtrooms, it’s the same with your coworkers, and to that point, you’re going to have to be supervising those other individuals in your office, whether it’s an attorney, an Associate Attorney, maybe below you, maybe you’re the senior partner, or you have paralegals, whatever your structure is.
– Right, right, right.
– Those obligations have not changed just because we’re in this virtual world. So you must abide by whatever your code of conduct says. Usually under 5.13 under the model rules, you gotta still supervise, you gotta check their work, you gotta account for their work, because you’re responsible for it and you’re excuse to a disciplinary commission or a judge that well, it’s virtual so I had to loosen the gears a little bit. No, that doesn’t fly.
– Got it. And then, physical office address, that’s when I’ve heard questions like, hey, do I, can I be just virtual? Can as a URL, enough for an office address? And you address that a little bit?
– Yeah, I like to think of it as two different ways. One is, I researched a little bit about this, looking at other states and there was really no consistency on really what the rhyme or reason was, it was probably whoever drafted the online form for the registration website to begin with, really, unless it’s somewhere enumerated in a rule, but it probably isn’t. And my point is, if you’re gonna have to have an “office address” as your annual registration or whatever is particular to your state or jurisdiction, that may take a little tweaking and maybe some insight to the commission with a direct question of saying, hey, I’ve decided to take my business 100% virtual. And, I’ve literally heard of attorneys saying, let’s pack up the RV, and I can work from anywhere. I’m still gonna practice, I’m serving clients in my jurisdiction none the less, but I can do it from around the world even.
– Yeah, I’ve met attorneys, I think we talked to one who does virtual fully like that. In different states, and they practice and yeah.
– Yeah. And that’s awesome. That’s great. And we have that privilege. But you got to double check that. And the other part to that, I mentioned, kind of the technical registration requirements, the part two to that is the advertising rules, okay. You never want to forget about that. If that does apply to you, if you send out mailers or you’re stuck in that era, or you’re doing other types of applicable advertising that you have to meet that office location requirement disclaimer, the like, is a virtual office sufficient for that disclaimer? I think at the end of the day, all these rules are really meant to protect the consumer. That’s how they should be viewed. I think the modern day consumer has a reasonable understanding of that, but that may be another thing. You want to look at both your ethical bar opinions or even have a direct, inquiry with your Regulatory Commission to say, am I meeting this correctly if I use this as my disclaimer that’s required for advertising?
– Right, yeah. And the interesting thing about physical addresses is even from an advertising perspective, outside of the ethics rules, if you’re trying to have a Google my business location and all that, like they want a physical location as well and the UPS or whatever the mail outlet the UPS Store Post Office Box doesn’t cut it these days. So, yeah, it’s interesting. Like you can practice virtually but it actually makes advertising harder as well. Not just from the ethics perspective.
– Yeah, I know we’ve talked about that a lot, even in person, how there’s, the problems with having a lot of people and the great convenience of using a UPS store as your office Dropbox, which is great for, logistical purposes. But even if you’re in a, an enclave of a bunch of attorneys on a single floor and you have shared office space, you got the same problem, ’cause you all have the same address and Google’s like, well, you know, is that the race to the address? Isn’t really the fair way to do that.
– It’s not but, we can tell now that they don’t really care about the problem that people are facing based on their algorithm. They’re just gonna keep working on the algorithm. So let’s switch gears from or I guess, kind of right along with it, so people went virtual with COVID. A lot of lawyers in the dollar office are working from home, zoom court hearings started happening, right. And that was a fascinating thing to watch. So you’ve talked a lot of people about this and you’re starting to educate, trying to educate attorneys and on using zoom for hearings, what takeaways should people from what you’ve seen in terms of how you educate people, but also maybe some of the most common mistakes that you want to make sure people are aware of?
– Yeah. Well, the, I’ve done it enough now and at the commission internally, we have daily zoom calls. So we’ve been on it from the start, we pivoted very quickly. And having remote meetings on a daily basis, we decided that would we try that out and it’s worked wonderfully. I’ve talked to attorneys who have pivoted pretty well with having client meetings this way, and I’ve had some great conversations with people doing depositions through zoom that they’ve actually preferred to in person because of the functionality and the convenience of it, including sharing exhibits having markup exhibits and such in the deposition. And that’s fantastic. I think I’d love to see that transmitted more into the courtroom and have mostly the judge and litigators be more convenient with that presentation of evidence ’cause what I’m seeing now, at least here in Illinois is we’re not quite there yet. We’re certainly not to the jury trial. And I don’t think many are around the whole nation. There’s maybe been a handful of jury trials actually remotely so far as we sit here.
– Texas maybe tried one or has had very few, right.
– And Texas has clearly been the front running leader in zoom hearings across the nation. And that’s because of their experience with the hurricanes, right? They had the process implemented all cued up. And in all these trainings I’ve done on zoom for lawyers, I always tell them, number one, go to the Texas website and watch hearings.
– Wow, okay, it’s a great idea.
– They go directly on the website, or they’re all simulcast onto YouTube, which we’re starting to do more and more here in Illinois simulcasting to YouTube, not just on the Supreme and appellate level, but also the trial courts, which is awesome. But if you’re a litigator, number one, yeah, go watch them. Just like you did in law school, maybe at my law school and where I teach now it’s required to go have a certain amount of hours sitting in the courtroom watching hearings, right? You should do the same thing with zoom. It is different. Understand it, understand the process is a little bit different. But also understand the technology. And that comes with just using it. Just like you shoot a basketball over and over again in your driveway, you need to try it out. And that includes just talk to your family members, have family conversations, have your neighbor conversations, hosted game night on zoom, etc. It doesn’t have to be law related. Just get used to using the technology, practice, practice, practice, and you’ll get to know the basics even more. And then lastly, you’ve been prepared for it, you’ve practiced, you gotta have your clients practice. So when you do get ready for that deposition, you do get ready for that court hearing, You won’t be blind going into it ’cause you practiced, but your clients have to practice to. You’ve gotta prep your clients beyond just the typical prepping you did back in the day when you did it in person, you’ve gotta add that extra element of prepping them with zoom technology now too walk them through it almost ad nauseum until they say I got it, I got it. And then that comfort, that stress level will already be taken away for them when they’re entering that deposition, or court or whatever the situation is.
– Yeah, it makes more sense. I guess I naturally focused on the lawyers preparing ’cause I mean, it’s, who we deal with all the time from client perspective. But you can think about the fact that the clients the lawyer’s client need to be prepared on zoom as well. And it may be the first time they’ve ever done any of this right. It’s the first time they’ve probably been in that situation from a legal perspective, let alone like, in a zoom professional setting. I mean, that’s probably some of the biggest advice right there is like, don’t forget that your client has never been there before.
– Yeah, yeah. We go into courthouses or we used to until now, but we will eventually hopefully, part of our training is to actually go into courthouses around Illinois. And we have a multi disciplinary training to all the employees of the courthouse from the front door deputies running to security, to the clerks, to the judges, to the lawyers, probation everybody. And that’s exactly the big message I always specifically leave with them is don’t forget, you are serving courthouse patrons. And many of these people have never stepped foot in a courthouse in their life. They are scared to death. You come here every day with your cup of coffee, and it doesn’t even cross your mind. You’re just coming into your office building. But to them it’s terrifying. And they’ve maybe even never gone through a metal detector before. They’ve never flown an airplane some of these people, right, they’ve never even experienced that. It’s so foreign to them. And all that is added stress. Think of it the same way. And to that point, there is the inverse to. You’re gonna find clients who are much better at technology than you are the lawyer, especially those who have been resistant to pivot and change into legal tech. So sometimes you’re gonna be educated by your own client, which is a good thing too.
– So, on that, going around all the education you guys are providing, you also run the mentoring program for new lawyers right in Illinois. But with COVID, right, a lot of people not in their offices are virtual or they’re afraid to go to their offices these days. How’s that been impacted?
– Yeah, so our program, it’s about nine years old and in and of itself, it’s directed specifically to new lawyers. So lawyers in their first five years of admission are paired with a one on one relationship for a year with someone with five years or more experience. We’ve always had a required in person element to that. All kinds of research says whether it’s legal or other mentoring, in person communication, in person meetings is most effective, right? But you can’t do it. So we did build in a limitation or allowance, I should say, where they can meet virtually. And we’ve had great reception to that. And I think, actually, just as this was happening, we were starting to look at that trend as well because especially the millennial and the Gen Z’s even, we’re having Gen Z’s if I get my numbers, right, I think they’re starting college now. Yeah, so we’re starting to very soon see more and more Gen Z’s following the millennials into the legal profession. They’ve known a cell phone their entire life, they’ve grown up with this in their hand. I didn’t pick this up until, law school. I don’t know how we ever planned where to meet people at a bar in college I don’t know how that worked I don’t remember. But somehow we got by and, it’s okay, I think, to a degree to have those virtual contacts, to have those discussions and certainly better than nothing. So we allow them to meet virtually. And I think that’ll further evolve our program into allowing more and more of that. It also clearly allows people to connect that aren’t geographically near each other, of course.
– Right, I know that’s a good point.
– I’d always rather have something rather than nothing. Illinois is not a small state so if somebody has a specific practice area maybe but they’re 200 miles apart, go ahead, connect. You can still meet. We do always encourage it to be video based still, because, having those visual cues like we’re doing right now, I can see your head nodding, because you’re obviously gonna agree with everything I say, ’cause I’m so brilliant. But yeah, you need those cues. And there’s clearly research that says that’s important. And so I’m anxious to see where it goes.
– Yeah, I mean, it’s great ’cause I mean, not only are you continue to be able to do it because it’s a important program. But the fact that you actually kind of may have found some other things that it provides that, making gaps on distance and connecting people who maybe aren’t geographically next to each other.
– Then we got a benefit out of it during some of this. So that’s interesting. I do need to wrap up this portion for the Facebook Live show today. But I hoping you could stick with us a few minutes longer.
– I had a bunch more questions Oh, that’s awesome ’cause I want to talk about in additional virtual office stuff but like the disappearing rural lawyers, but also I think you just dropped something on chat box, I haven’t a chance to read so I figured I’ll just talk to you about it here. And just other things about future of law that we’ve talked about. But before we wrap up, where can people get a hold of you?
– So just Google 2 Civility the number 2 Civility you’ll find everything about us. I’m on Twitter at at Palmer Law, my last name L-A-W, and you’ll connect. You’ll see all our blog posts are at 2 Civility. We have almost a weekly blog, we push out.
– Awesome. Well, we’ll get that in the chat for everybody. And just one moment and we’ll come back and talk more.
– Great, Thank you.
– Well, thanks for joining us today. Be sure to like and subscribe to our Facebook page so you get notified when our next episode goes live. We have new interviews about law firm marketing and the business side of running your firm hear every other Wednesday. We’re gonna keep going into GNGF studios, you can watch the full extended interview with Mark Palmer this Friday, over on our YouTube channel. We’ll be diving into more detail around virtual offices, the disappearing rural lawyers and the future of law. We’ll see you then. Mark, thanks for sticking with us a lot more questions for you. And we’ll just push this on the YouTube channel on Friday. And we have all the time in the world now.
– So you talked about you’ve written and talked a lot about the disappearing rural lawyers. And interesting enough with some of the stuff going on people learning how to you know, work virtual and stuff. What are some things, what is your perspective on this? ‘Cause you wrote an article on it, it was great.
– Yeah so, this came about actually through the mentoring program that I mentioned earlier and you brought up and that every twice a year, I would get the new enrollment from new lawyers for the state of Illinois, right? We have two big admission classes after they take the bar and pass it of course. And then I’d see the trends and I would map them out by counties in Illinois, we have 102 counties in Illinois, including the biggest of course, Cook County, Chicago area, and the collar counties around Chicago. So I kind of did a little personal research to dig deeper in that and I could also see the trends involved in those numbers over at least five years. And they were frankly disturbing enough that I’m like, I gotta ring a bell a little bit louder on this it led to two really in depth blog posts that you can check out at 2Civility.org. Or just google disappearing rural lawyer and will come up. And I’d seen this written about another context. Both in the legal profession, like in the ABA, actually the ABA put out an article in their journal I think in January, maybe right after my second post, which was just coincidental. But it’s also come up in the New York Times and larger publications once in a while because it’s a concerning issue, this is about delivery of justice to our public. And if there’s not lawyers there to help be the vehicle for that the consumers are gonna either, self represent, or go elsewhere, trying to find some way to address their legal issues if they even know they have a legal issue. That’s a whole nother issue. Right. But let me give you one statistic that kinda drives us home. So most recently, and this is from the November 2019 class of admitted lawyers. I haven’t looked at the most recent one ’cause I haven’t got it yet but, I mentioned 107 or 102 counties in Illinois, 76 of those counties have five or fewer new lawyers in the last four years.
– Four years, not just this class the last four years.
– Yeah, and 39 counties have zero new lawyers in the last four years. So what does that mean? If you break those numbers down, if you just take out Chicago and the collar counties around Chicago, what we call in Illinois, Chicago land. The rest of the counties, 96 counties, which is approximately 4.5 million people, there’s fewer than 700 new lawyers to serve 4.5 million people of the new lawyer class. And that’s, defined as lawyers and the first four years of experience. Now obviously, we have the baby boomers starting to fade off and retire from the legal profession. And then here I am, like you a Gen X are kind of caught in the middle saying, well, we grew up assuming we’d take over the reigns for these retirement lawyers and such, but here come the millennials and now the Gen Z’s filling in But there’s these vast geographic areas where there’s just the only lawyers, frankly, in these counties is maybe the judge, the state’s attorney, and then there’s some counties where the public defender has to serve multiple counties, ’cause that’s the only attorney around. There’s nobody, zero. No real estate transactions, no transactional, no litigation. So why do I wanna bring this up to you? Let’s look at this not only as a justice problem and an access to justice problem, not only a self represented litigation problem, but this is an opportunity. This is a huge opportunity, and it kind of circles back to the virtual office. As long as you’re in your jurisdiction, why aren’t you thinking more outside the box to serve these areas. Specifically, if you’re going to address your area of practice, marketed to them. Educate them, make it known to them that you are able to serve them, even if you’re 100 miles away, even maybe 200 miles away, they can be your clientele nonetheless, and operate in this virtual world, this virtual office and serve them better and just as efficiently and effectively. So if nothing else, I want to ring that bell to your listeners to think that way.
– Yeah, I mean, it’s a good time to keep talking about it, because for the first time, I think you’ve got a significant amount of lawyers who suddenly got used to, oh, this is possible to do a significant amount of my work outside of the office, let alone outside of a very specific geographic court area or something. That’s been great. So I’m glad you get to bring that up. And I really hope people take heart to that and, we’ll put both blog posts in the chat in the notes here to make sure that people see this. So another thing, again, you’re writing in your blog post, people should be checking it out but, you just dropped something about chat bots and haven’t had time to read it, but it’s around ethics of chat bots ’cause we’re seeing these all the time we’ve had people who do chat bots on our show before a couple of companies that are like legal specific chat bots. We have clients with some chat bots on them what are some of the ethics things you kinda highlighted in your article and or things you’re seeing that maybe, you want to make sure you get across?
– Yeah, yeah. And it’s funny ’cause I started researching this and it just kind of popped in my head and I go into conferences like you, you walk around you talk to people and I’ve talked to people on social media and in person. People do this for a living either startups or otherwise, like Tom Martin at Law Droid or Maddie Martin at Smith AI and things like that. These people they’re pushing awesome product, awesome services. It’s a way to engage clients. I’m all for all those things. But again, it goes back to our very beginning of our conversations you can’t forget the ethical cloud sitting there all the time. And I wanted to say, are there ethical considerations with chat bots? And not just chat bots, but a lot of these services are live chat operators, right? And does that matter to? And I think it does. And so I started researching for it’s usually my first step always to see okay, what bar ethical opinions are out there across the nation?
– I haven’t seen a lot. Did you find anything?
– I found nothing. I found zero.
– Nothing on this. And so I even started to ask, the people who really have their thumb on this more and more, like Bob and Brody and people who, are always paying attention to what’s pushed out by bar associations and alike, and they said the same thing. I don’t see anything. So it took me a little while, and more thinking and waking up in the middle of night to think what are the ethical and moral rules that might apply to this? But it really started at the beginning where, I would get annoyed personally when I would go to websites and not just legal websites, many websites. And we all done it, you see that chat icon pop up and ask you if you want help, and that’s great. And if you want to ignore it, you can ignore it. That’s fine. But what really drives me nuts and I lead this right off in the article is, don’t pretend you’re a human when you’re not a human. Don’t try to trick the consumer that you’re off to the wrong start to begin with. And I commend these websites that actually say they’re a bot. Or even like Patrick Palace at Palace law. He names his bot, the pet bot, it’s clearly a bot. And you know that you’re dealing with a robot. Law droid uses an icon of a bot. They’re not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. And the counter to that is if it is a live operator, that’s awesome, great. You’ve paid for that service, make it known and that’s good too. But don’t try to trick consumers. They’re not dumb, and you’re just gonna be off to a bad start. First impressions matter. So keep that in mind. But turning to the ethical questions of these chat bots, a couple things came to mind one, confidentiality, it should always be an issue, whether you’re meeting in person, whether you’re talking on the phone at the coffee shop, or on a video chat, whatever the case may be. There’s transmission of data, transmission of information. It’s stored. And you gotta ask all those questions of that vendor. How are you controlling this information? In this case, it’s probably text files and maybe video pop up even at some of these newer options. But what security is there? And it’s, almost equated to the to the check offs that you must do as a lawyer to ensure like cloud security, for the same respect. Have you ensured that your information is being protected, at least to a reasonable degree, okay. You don’t have to be a Computer Science major. But you at least have to take the reasonable steps to do so. And it should be the same in this respect. Point two is going back to UPL again. Is this person or robot giving advice? It better not be. That should be it. And that’s always the difference between advice and information. You always got to come down the path of information only, whether it’s collecting information or dispensing very basic contact information, or it’s a process of the intake, which is probably why you have it anyway, to generate lead, of course, but you always gotta stop short of that advice element can’t give advice into it. And I’m sure most of these vendors understand that in our training, there’s training done around that, which leads to my third and final point is, you gotta have supervision, okay. Just like the virtual offices we talked on our previous conversation, same thing. You’ve got to have supervision of these conversations. If that vendors only giving you the leads, and you’re not getting 90% of the conversations, all those people going there looking for free legal advice, how are you vetting those conversations? How are you properly supervising the chat between you and the potential client? You probably aren’t. So you need to understand that you need to have that conversation with your vendor to say, I have a legal and ethical responsibility to supervise people that are either lawyers or they’re not lawyers, but you’re working for me, and therefore, I have to have some type of measure built in. And that’s right there under Rule 5.3.
– Yeah, you really need to know your vendors, getting the text files too mean, being able to see what’s going on. By the way, not just about looking over their shoulder all the time, but you can learn from that. People are asking this question a lot. Maybe I should write an article about it? Or maybe we should talk, or maybe I should be very clear that we don’t do that, somewhere else.
– Get a blog post idea, right?
– Yeah, yeah, there’s great content in there.
– And tweak. I’m guessing you at least if it’s a person, they have some type of script they’re following or process, you’re gonna be constantly evolving and tweaking that script, I would think it’s not going to be set in stone. And the same for a decision tree of a robot answering questions, same thing.
– I didn’t think about the confidentiality piece, ’cause some of the chat bot vendors and some of these vendors are coming out saying, well, we actually have an AI component built in that makes our bots smarter all the time. From a confidentiality perspective, now you’ve got like a program going through and pulling it for the benefit of everybody. I hadn’t even thought about that. But that’s a fascinating thing to dig into at some point.
– Yeah, what if that person online is talking about health care information? Or other confidential things or, whether it’s civil or criminal or I mean, I can come up with all kinds of scenarios, as a law professor to say.
– Yeah, yeah. I’m not saying these vendors haven’t figured that out, but like, those are the questions you need to make sure that they have thought about. Yeah. So you’ve also have, we talked about future law all the time and technology when we’re together, you actually have a conference around this right. That the future is now. Were you able to have that? I mean, ’cause it’s usually in the spring, isn’t it?
– Yeah, it’s usually every spring usually in May or April, but we have officially canceled it this year or in other words, postponed it till next year. And so it will be again in 2021 and I am 100% confident it will occur whether it’s in person or virtual. And we’ll be discussing over the next few months if we wanna just go right to default into virtual only like a lot of conferences are. I’m looking forward to in the process, seeing what some of these results vibrant conferences that you and I go to all the time that do a great job. I always tell lawyers, go to conferences, oh, well, I already know all about that. So you’re not going there just for that over 50% of the reason you’re going there is to network with people, and get ideas one on one, that’s where you get your value from. It’s not the fee to get in the door and listen and sit in the room and take notes, It’s the after hours, that’s where you get the real value. But that’s what I think is gonna be missed from a lot of these conferences, unfortunately, but I hope there’s a new way to stimulate engagement somehow, but our conference has been a little, a little different than others where we we do have an engagement element we always have in the past, where we have people that can ask questions to our speakers. So it’s, first set up like two or three TED Talk style deliveries for under 15 minutes, but then we have a town hall follow up with those speakers, where one of us sits on the stage, we facilitate the conversation and we open up to the floor for conversation from the audience to dig deeper into the issues. So that’s been really well received from our attendees. We’ve gotten bigger each year. And we really also set a pretty wide slate of speaker types, ranging from technology focus, but also other future law issues, whether it’s around ethics or diversity, or well being, or even just new ideas like a cash, cash bail, or all types of issues on all types of practice areas to try and hit a little bit of everybody. but our main audience is the solo, small, firm practitioner pretty much.
– Awesome. We’ll, put a link to where normally is and then you guys will update it at some point in the future.
– Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll keep you informed for sure.
– Perfect. Well, we’re kind of running out like we have a lot of time but we’ve been going on for so much, I’m actually hoping that maybe you’ll come back for another episode sometime ’cause we have so many more questions, a lot of thoughts. You always have an interesting take on things because it’s not just about the technology or the marketing or whatever, but it’s about, how does that map to the right thing for the consumer from an ethics perspective?
– I think that’s a great way to end it. If nothing else, put yourself in the seat of the of the client, the consumer, and are you viewing it from them from their perspective, and from there, whether you’re going out googling yourself or what you do, and if you’re finding yourself, that’s great, if you’re not, you need to find a new way to do it. You need to pivot and change and evolve. So it’s not just about all these automated processes, it’s about actually transforming and getting and doing it better and different, not just sticking to the old habits.
– Yep. With a legal consumer in mind. Love it. Well, thanks so much, Mark. And we’ll catch up soon, either virtually or maybe one of these days at a conference again.
– You bet.
– Hey, what’s up? I’m Josh, thanks so much for joining us. If you feel like you learn something today, think of how beneficial it would be to chat with myself or another one of our marketing consultants one on one. Go ahead and visit our website to schedule your free consultation. It only takes a minute.