You may not have heard of something called the Data-Driven Ethics Initiative. The organizers say it is an initiative to gather and use data to completely overhaul and improve the Rules of Professional Conduct to better benefit the public. Skeptics say it is an effort primarily funded by online legal tech companies with goals that are more tied to their business development plans than reform. The organizers say on their website that they have law school deans onboard (note the plural.)
As you can surmise, like every trained lawyer, I am a bit of a professional skeptic and that is particularly true where legal ethics rules are concerned.
So it seemed like a good idea to invite one of the two named organizers, Erin Gerstenzang, to be a guest on our Digital Edge Podcast episode, The Data-Driven Ethics Initiative. I just met Erin for the first time at ABA TECHSHOW 2018 and was so impressed by one of her presentations that I included some of her talk in my column A Brief Recap of ABA TECHSHOW 2018 in the Oklahoma Bar Journal. During the podcast Erin discussed her view of the challenges that good lawyers face today with legal ethics rules and how rule changes might better serve the public. I encourage you to listen to the podcast.
I’ll give Erin’s co-organizer (?) Megan Zavieh (who I also met for the first time at ABA TECHSHOW 2018) some equal time by pointing to her recent article on the Initiative Sweeping Change Is Needed to the Model Rules (and It Is Not Scary).
The Initiative’s rather austere website states: “We will kick off this initiative the week of May 22, 2018, from Las Vegas where we will be attending Avvo’s Lawyernomics conference. We will publish the most current draft – our MVP- on October 4, 2018, from New Orleans, when many of us will be attending the Clio Conference.” That’s 135 days to gather data and produce a draft, including weekends and holidays. So I guess most of us will be waiting until then. Personally I will attempt to keep an open mind because I do appreciate how the technology-fueled changes of today can make it challenging to apply the rules to emerging technology.
But I’d certainly encourage everyone involved with the Initiative to lobby for transparency. Who is providing funding? It’s not really believable that an all-volunteer team, especially if many of the members are busy attorneys, can produce such significant results during such a short span over the summer, even if they work all the weekends. But maybe I misinterpret this MVP label. If it is a roadmap of what needs to be examined, then it certainly could be a valuable conversation starter. We shall see.