We have all seen the advertisements for websites such as LegalZoom.com and the internet is most definitely not a new mode of communication for this generation. However, the “Cyber Lawyer” presence seems to be growing. At LawPivot.com and JustAnswer.com there is legal advice at the public’s fingertips, literally. For less than $50 individuals may go online and ask their questions to live attorneys who are being paid by the question as some sort of “side job.” (The requirements to become an “expert” at JustAnswer.com are as follows: (1) Complete an online application; (2) Take a short subject matter test; (3) Verify that your license to practice law is valid and in good standing.) Other lawyers have chosen a cyber presence exclusively.
It is not uncommon to read an article questioning the quality of “Cyber Lawyers,” but it seems that commentary debating the ethical obligations (particularly the Unauthorized Practice of Law) is much more scarce. When lawyers work for these types of sites are they giving legal advice? Should it even be considered practicing law? The Commission on Ethics 20/20 is currently updating and revising the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility. Has the internet affected the profession of law to such an extreme that might warrant special rules for these types of websites? Has the internet impacted the places lawyers practice law to the point where a uniform United States bar exam is preferable?