Des Moines, Iowa, personal injury lawyer Steve Lombardi, who blogs at InjuryBoard (http://desmoines.injuryboard.com), thinks that listserves “have become a place where lazy lawyers fool themselves into thinking they can get questions answered and avoid associating with more qualified lawyers, and in his blog post “Lawyers’ LISTSERVS can be a disservice to clients” (http://tinyurl.com/2le7gn), he called upon trial associations to take the reigns in monitoring just how law-related listserves should be used.
Carolyn Elefant, blogging at MyShingle (www.myshingle.com) took him to task at once, in a post “Listserves: The Problem or the Solution for Improving Lawyer Competency?” (http://tinyurl.com/23rkn8), defending the free-wheeling nature of legal mailing lists, and insisting that “even before listserves, lawyers accepted cases beyond their skills for a variety of reasons: sometimes to gain experience, sometimes because of greed and sometimes because they don’t even know that they’re out of their depth. Rather than exacerbate this problems, listserves offer a solution, by serving as a lifeline to lawyers in over their head.”
In the space of a single day, the food fight was on, commentators to MyShingle lining up to agree with Elefant’s position. Was Lombardi just having a bad hair day? His response (http://tinyurl.com/2ypffp) signaled that he was holding tight to his guns.
Using a law-related listserve as a substitute for legal research and relying solely upon information conveyed in listserve would be about as prudent as performing brain surgery after watching a YouTube presentation, but listserves do remain an important tool in any lawyer’s arsenal. Free exchange of advice and relationship-building among lawyers predated the invention of e-mail; lawyers once gathered in the attorneys’ room over at county courthouse and compared notes for years before anyone ever thought up the idea of a computer. Lawyers learned to ferret out those who knew what they were talking about and to winnow out bad advice back in the old days, and they’re just as capable of doing so today.