The 2015 Annual Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference recently took place in Manalapan, Florida. During the event, Adriana Linares and co-host Renee Thompson sat down with the new Florida Bar President, Ray Abadin, to discuss the highlights of his presentation and his passions for the future of Florida lawyers.
On this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast, Linares, Thompson, and Abadin discuss:
- Accepting non-lawyer service providers into the legal marketplace
- Providing cheaper, more accessible, and efficient services
- Using Legalzoom, Avvo, and Rocket Matter alongside your practice
- The commodity of trust in this world of online reviews
- How to have a global practice
- What to do about the 60% of people who have unmet legal service needs
- Florida lawyers and the fear of reciprocity
- Ethics and a consistent demand for high quality standards
- A side note about President Abadin appointing women to leadership roles
Ramón A. Abadin is a partner in the Miami office of Sedgwick LLP, where he focuses on complex commercial, insurance, and corporate litigation. His focus as Bar president is on technology and challenging the Bar’s membership and leadership to recognize the transformation revolutionizing the legal services marketplace and to embrace that change. At the Bar Leaders Conference, his presentation described the revolution in the delivery of legal services, resulting opportunities for lawyers, and how Bars can inform and assist members in navigating the new landscape.
The Florida Bar Podcast: Florida Bar President Ray Abadin on Lawyers and Technology – 7/27/2015
Advertiser: Welcome to the official Florida Bar Podcast. Where we cover practice management, leadership, and what’s happening in Florida law. Brought to you by the Florida Bar Practice Resource Institute. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: Hello everyone and welcome to another official Florida Bar Podcast. My name is Adriana Linares. I’m a legal technology trainer and consultant. I’m very honored to get to be the host of this show but I’m even more honored today because I have two really great guests with me. I have a co host, Ms. Renee Thompson.
Renee Thompson: Nice to meet you, Adriana.
Adriana Linares: Renee, tell us a little bit about yourself before we introduce our very special guest, Mr. Ray Abadin, president of the Florida Bar.
Renee Thompson: Oh, well thank you. My name’s Renee Thompson, I work with president Abadin on the Board of Governors. There are 52 of us across the state and we are here at the Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference, along with members of the Florida Bar Leadership Academy.
Adriana Linares: Thank you so much for helping me try to crown our wild and fun and energetic-
Renee Thompson: He’s a busy guy!
Adriana Linares: He’s a busy guy! Ray, how are you today?
Ray Abadin: I’m great.
Adriana Linares: You gave a great speech this morning.
Ray Abadin: Thank you.
Adriana Linares: Tell us a little bit about yourself. If there are members of the Florida Bar who have never heard of Ray Abadin, what are three things they should know about you that they might not have known before you became president of the Bar?
Ray Abadin: That’s a tough question to answer, but I’ve been a lawyer for 27 years, I’m married to a lawyer with three beautiful kids. I love practicing law, I love trying cases, solving complex problems, and being president of the Florida Bar in a really challenging time.
Adriana Linares: So let’s talk about this, you’ve only been president of the Bar for about two weeks now?
Ray Abadin: Two weeks, exactly two weeks today.
Renee Thompson: The busiest two weeks yet?
Ray Abadin: Really exciting two weeks.
Renee Thompson: Good.
Ray Abadin: We’ve made some interesting statements and caused some conversation to occur amongst the Bar members which is really good. It’s important for everyone, given the inflection point that we are in our careers. But really, I think this is a millennial time of change for us as consumers, as human beings. The change in our life driven by technology is finally now affecting our practices, which have been pretty much isolated and protected from the change and the change in marketplace that had occurred.
Adriana Linares: So there might be a lot of people who are listening and they have no idea what you are talking about. They didn’t get to hear your Bar Convention speech, they didn’t hear you this morning. You had a great group of lawyers and Bar leaders, probably about 200 in that room, I think –
Renee Thompson: It was packed.
Adriana Linares: – that heard your message. Tell us a couple of the main points. You know, you have some pretty big agenda items that you maybe not necessarily actually get changed during your presidency, but hear people talking about it and addressing those major issues. What are a couple of those big ones?
Ray Abadin: So really, it’s an exciting time to be a lawyer. It’s actually a great time to be a lawyer because we can participate in the change. We are able to take advantage of the monumental technology changes that are affecting our life and our practices. Three changes are the speed of the change, the breath of the change, the incursion, intrusion, the welcome participation of non-legal service providers into our marketplace. The fact that we now are going to have to compete whether we want to or not with people who are not lawyers, not traditional lawyers, not traditional practices. The overwhelming, sad, difficult access to justice problem that we have in our system. And so there’s so much going on and there’s so much opportunity for lawyers. But as Steve Jobs says, we have to think different. We have to think about ourselves differently, we have to think about what we do and how we do it differently. We have to think about our place in the marketplace differently. How we provide services, who we provide services to, who we partner with that are not traditional lawyers, that are not lawyers, not traditional legal service providers that we can partner with to deliver better, more efficient, accessible services to our clients.
Adriana Linares: How do we partner with non lawyers to do those types of things? What are the types of ideas – and I’m not saying this is what’s going to happen, that you have some great ideas and you have great support from the Board of Governors, people just like Renee who understand that things are changing and we can’t keep our heads buried in the sand. So give us some examples.
Ray Abadin: That’s a great question. Unfortunately, if we’re going to follow the rules which were first promulgated in 1955 – when I think we can all agree, life was very different. We can’t partner with anybody. A criminal lawyer can’t partner with a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
Adriana Linares: Why is that?
Ray Abadin: Because the rules regulated in the Florida Bar prohibit lawyers from owning or partnering with any non lawyers in our business relationships. And they prohibit fee splitting, the rules prohibit us from sharing or splitting our fees with people who are not lawyers.
Adriana Linares: Well is that up for discussion this year?
Ray Abadin: It’s absolutely up for discussion; more as a matter of necessity than it is a matter of anything else. The marketplace is demanding full service when they come to a doctor, when they go to a real estate broker, when they come to a lawyer, when come to a professional, the market needs – and we should be able to provide – multiple disciplinary practices. Also, there are efficiencies made available by technology that can lower the cost of legal services which is what the consumer wants. None of us ever goes into a store and says, “Hey, how much is that tie?” 50 bucks. “Well I want to pay you $100.” We look for the best value and sometimes price is part of the value calculation. And lawyers have been able to say, “Well we pick the price because we charge you whatever you want because you have to come to us.” And so no longer is that the reality. That is not the reality anymore. The reality is there are companies that are not lawyers or that have lawyers in them but the lawyers aren’t subject to the Florida Bar rules that are providing cheaper, more accessible, more efficient, more affordable servicers for the consumer who wants a product. And the biggest example or the most obvious example is LegalZoom because they advertise so much. But LegalZoom has managed to take technology, they’ve managed to take forms, and they’ve made them available to the market, to people, to consumers, who don’t want perfection, who don’t need perfection, who need a simple, legal form. And they made them affordable and accessible and convenient for the consumer.
Adriana Linares: I feel that we should remind people that LegalZoom provides that service to a very specific segment of the market. You work in a very high-level litigation practice.
Ray Abadin: I do.
Adriana Linares: So the type of clients that you and your firm are looking for do not for one second compete with the types of clients that LegalZoom is looking for.
Ray Abadin: And they certainly pay for it.
Adriana Linares: And I think that’s an important difference for our lawyers to understand. If we figure out a way to partner with some of these companies, we’re going to figure out a way to bring some of the business that lawyers in Florida have not been – maybe not even realized what potential clients to them. It’s bringing the world to them, really.
Ray Abadin: Where the “think different,” comes in, is don’t look at LegalZoom as a competitor. Look at LegalZoom as a facilitator, look at LegalZoom as a partner. Look at Avvo, look at RocketLawyer. Look at any one of the number of companies that are in our space as partners. So if a customer or client comes in to you and says, “I need a will.” You may say, “Well let’s talk about it,” and offer them counseling services and advice. And the advice may be, “You shouldn’t pay me to do a will, go to LegalZoom and get it done for whatever they charge or go to RocketLawyer and get it done for whatever they charge. But let me help you manage that. Oh, by the way, do you have a corporate problem? Oh by the way, how’s your marriage?” Just provide, hold their hand. As lawyers, our fiduciary obligation puts us in the middle of crises situations for people and we have commoditized that, we’ve made money from that. And other people, other entities, are doing the same. We should embrace that and we haven’t done a very good job at controlling the marketplace when we had full control of the marketplace because the unquestionable statistics show that at least 60% of the people who need legal services aren’t getting them. And that the value of that 60% is estimated to be $45 billion. So there’s $45 billion in potential revenue for someone. It should be lawyers, but for some reason, lawyers have not been able to access that market or have not chosen to access that market or don’t know that they can. So part of the discussion is lawyers, we need to look over there.
Adriana Linares: There’s this giant opportunity sitting over here, this giant, shiny object.
Renee Thompson: How are we going to embrace it?
Ray Abadin: Well, in technology, for instance, can lower our cost. Being a lawyer is very expensive; the overhead cost of running a law firm-
Adriana Linares: In a traditional sense.
Renee Thompson: Okay, so let’s make sure we say that.
Ray Abadin: Exactly, that’ s a very valid point. And so now, in a non-traditional firm, what you really need is a laptop-
Adriana Linares: Or a new modern firm.
Ray Abadin: Or a new modern firm, or a firm that can exist today. You need a laptop, you need a Cloud service provider, somewhere to store your data. You need a laptop and you need a phone line. And that really gives us freedom to do whatever we want.
Renee Thompson: It’s a change in the paradigm.
Ray Abadin: It’s a change in the paradigm. We can practice from anywhere, we can service anyone, and we can do almost anything because knowledge now is accessible to us. I can, sitting right here, access any one of my files on my iPhone. I can call any one of my clients anywhere in the world from my iPhone, and they can call me. And they don’t really care where I am as long as I can answer their question.
Adriana Linares: And you’re also able to look at the last filing that came in, the last email they sent. You can see everything and raise a very model lawyer, he practices what he preaches. But you have access to all that information so that allows you to come to things like the Voluntary Bar Conference and not stress out and your clients don’t need to know.
Ray Abadin: I’m sitting here with you here today. I have looked at an order that came in, I have responded to the order, I have communicated with the client related to the order. I’m watching pleadings that have come in on another case, I’m editing a document in real time with one of my associates. And I’m sitting here, I’m not in my office, I’m not anywhere near my office except I don’t need to be in my office anymore. So technology is really a gift for us if we embrace it, if we choose to use it. And it can lower the cost. We no longer need bricks and mortars, we no longer need an office in the sky. We no longer need a secretary that we have to pay health insurance and benefits for and all that stuff. That was the old model and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Adriana Linares: And we should say if that’s how you choose to practice, that’s fine. You just have options now that make your life better.
Ray Abadin: Correct. And we talk about work life balance. Technology frees us up to have work life balance because if I want to work in the afternoons from my house, I can. If I want to go be with my kids at home, I can work in the afternoon, because while they’re out playing in the yard, I can sit in my living room and I can type, dictate, I can manage my files, I can talk to my clients. A lot of what we do is counseling and advice. That’s the real value of being a lawyer, and it’s grounded in our ethical underpinnings. There’s a woman named Rachel Botsman who talks about the new economy going forward, and that’s the commodity of trust. People are going to need to trust and it comes out of the ratings – her theory comes out of the ratings from Yelp and Uber and Airbnb. And so her hypothesis is the location is less important than the rating of the propriater. People would rather stay with a nice person, an Airbnb, and not so nice a place than a really nice place and a not nice person. So the commodity is trust. When you buy on eBay, when you buy on any one of the hundreds of portals now, I learned from her that people loan money on internet portals now. It’s all based on trust and it’s an interesting thing because lawyers have built-in trust. We’ve been doing it forever.
Adriana Linares: When a friend says to another friend, “I need a lawyer who does this.” The trust that they have in that friend is immediate. That’s a review, essentially, the old fashion, everybody says word of mouth is the best way to get business. That is a review.
Renee Thompson: It’s just using technology to get it.
Adriana Linares: And in a simpler way if you think about. That’s such an interesting thing because we trust people that we have never met, we have no idea who they are. Think about every time you go to buy something on Amazon. And actually, you know what’s funny? Sometimes I want to walk into a store and buy something and I still go to Amazon, I look up the product, I read the reviews, and then I go buy it.
Ray Abadin: The traditional way of doing it is if I’m friends with you, Adriana, and I trust you and we have a relationship, I’ll call you and I’ll say, “You recommend someone to me.” What really, you’re doing, is you’re trading on your trust and I’m trading on my trust with you. Well we now live in a global marketplace. We now live in a Yelp world, we now live in a Trip Advisor world, we now live in an Uber world, we now live in an Amazon world.
Renee Thompson: You can trust across the world.
Ray Abadin: Sure, and when I shop on Amazon just like everybody else, I look at the product. I want to buy a pair of reading glasses, I go and get reading glasses. But I look at the reviews, XYZ reading glasses. I look at the reviews, and if I see 3 stars, I click away.
Adriana Linares: That’s right, that’s funny, I do that too. 3 stars are not enough!
Ray Abadin: If I see 4 or 4 and a half, I click on it and I say, “Okay, what are people talking about about these glasses?”
Adriana Linares: And what questions did I not think to ask, that’s my favorite part.
Ray Abadin: Correct. And see, lawyers are going to be and are no different. We are a service provider. Doctors are subject to that now, airlines are subject to that now. Everybody in the marketplace, everybody in the ecosystem of service providers are in that marketplace now.
Adriana Linares: But you know, I can hear a lot of lawyers right now saying, “Look, I’m a small town lawyer, I’m one of the 60% of the Florida Bar members who just practices in a very small town. I don’t care what’s happening globally, I barely care what’s happening in the county next to mine. Why does this stuff matter to me as a small town, or even a big town but solo attorney in the state of Florida?”
Ray Abadin: Because why would you want to limit your customer base? Why would you want to limit the ability to attract more business? Who doesn’t want more business?
Adriana Linares: I don’t know a single person, anybody in this room not want more business?
Renee Thompson: None of us here.
Ray Abadin: So why would you want less business? Why would you not want to put yourself in a position where you have a choice of practicing where you’re too busy? So if you’re a solo practitioner – and by the way, if you’re a solo practitioner, when you go on vacation you make no money. When you go to the beach, you don’t make money. When you’re sitting at home watching TV, you’re not making money. If God forbid one of your children gets sick or your spouse gets sick or you’re the spouse that stays at home, you’re not making money, because you’re the sole provider. But with technology, you could work from home. You could work from anywhere, you could work from the beach. And the concept of customer service shouldn’t be limited, we shouldn’t resist that. There are opportunities. So when I talk about opportunities that technology brings, technology brings global opportunities to serve people globally.
Adriana Linares: Except for, wait, so let me say this; and this is something you all have been dealing with, Renee you were telling me about it earlier. “But I don’t have a global business because the Florida Bar only allows me to have a business within Florida. So how can I take advantage of all these global opportunities that you’re telling me about when I can only practice in Florida?
Ray Abadin: So everything in life has a tradeoff. You can only practice in Florida because Florida doesn’t allow anybody to practice in Florida unless they take the Bar. So 60% of the people in Florida aren’t being served by the lawyers in Florida.
Adriana Linares: That’s weird. Do we not have enough lawyers in this state? Seems like we have a lot of lawyers.
Ray Abadin: That’s right. Seems like we have plenty of lawyers, and it seems like we should be able to serve everybody in Florida. But the statistics that are uncontroverted are that however many lawyers there are in Florida, 101 thousand, they’re not servicing, we’re not servicing the consumers in Florida. Okay, so, perhaps if we open up the market and let other lawyers come in, they can figure out a way to do it cheaper from Montana or from Idaho or from New Jersey.
Adriana Linares: “But wait, I don’t want a lawyer from Montana serving my clients.”
Ray Abadin: Why not? They’re not serving your clients, they’re serving the clients that are underserved – and, by the way, they may serve your clients because lawyers need to understand that even though we don’t like it; I don’t like competition. I wish that I were the only lawyer on the planet so that everybody would have to see me. But that’s not a reality. We are in a competitive environment, we work in a capitalistic government system – that’s the government we have. Coke competes with Pepsi all day, everyday. I’m sure Pepsi doesn’t want Coke and Coke doesn’t want Pepsi. We compete at the supermarket. Publix competes with Winn-Dixie, Hertz competes with Avis, American competes with United, the Dolphins competes with the Jets. So we’re in a competitive environment and for lawyers to say, “I want to hold the Bar license, solely to prevent competition,” I just don’t think comports with the new technology and the new reality. By the way, changes in the reciprocity rule never means that Florida will not instill and demand a certain level of proficiency and competency in the lawyers who practice in Florida.
Renee Thompson: Well these are really big topics for a lot of lawyers. I mean, I can imagine if you have practitioners who have been here for many years that these are new and scary for them. What do you say to those lawyers who are looking at the Bar, leading on, frankly, a national level on these topics to engage in the conversation? What do you suggest they do? Because ultimately, in order to have a conversation, they need to learn about what the benefits are, what the risks are. What do you do? I mean if I’m a lawyer in the middle of the state and I want to know what does it mean if we embrace this concept, where would I go? How would I find out about it?
Ray Abadin: It’s no different than when a client walks in our office and has a legal problem. What do we do? We figure out what the problem is. Well the problem is we’re not competing in a global marketplace. The problem is we are now working with folks in the marketplace that are non lawyers. The problem is that we are now forced to deal with companies like Legalzoom and RocketLawyer. And so what we need to do first is become informed. We need to understand what the problem is.
Renee Thompson: How do you do that, though?
Ray Abadin: You read.
Renee Thompson: Read what?
Ray Abadin: You read things that we’ve never read before. The ABA Journal, the Law Practice Management, publication from the ABA Journal. You read a book called The Relevant Lawyer that’s just come out of the ABA-
Adriana Linares: The End of Lawyers? by Richard Susskind.
Ray Abadin: By Richard Susskind, right? Growth is Dead by Bruce MacEwen. You read about our business. You read about the global marketplace. You read about the changes that are occurring outside of our day to day practice.
Adriana Linares: It’s hard to find time to do that, I know all lawyers listening to this are going to say that. But this is part of maintaining that competency level of how to practice law and how to remain relevant and shaping.
Renee Thompson: And shaping, we have to help them find the time to shape their future.
Ray Abadin: But we, as lawyers, everyone agrees, you have to read the advance sheets, you have to read the case law, you have to read the pins that are coming out of the Supreme Court. We have to read to stay competent in our practice. The reality is we now have to read to stay competent in our business. And I would say we now have to read to stay competitive in our business, because we have people in our marketplace that are non lawyers that are competing with us.
Adriana Linares: And you know what? We have to say this out loud too. They don’t have to play by the same rules that you all do, and they will win.
Ray Abadin: Correct. And so if you can imagine and analogize it to any sport – let’s analogize it to football. We’re playing with our hands and feet tied and they’re playing with the best teams on the planet. They’re overly-funded, they have venture capital money, they have billions of dollars, they have people that are business men and women that are doing business strategies. And we’re sitting there going, “Oh no, our best opportunity is keep the Florida Bar progressive prosody wall up. Don’t let anybody in, don’t let us partnership with everybody, don’t let us partnership with anybody. The only partner I can have is another lawyer.” Well, we just have to rethink that. I want to be clear with anybody who listens to this. We don’t have the answers and that’s really the hard part, because lawyers want the answer. They want a law school. Go into the stacks, go into the law and find the answer. I’ve had mentors tell me if you look long enough and research, it’s there. The problem is now we don’t have the answer because technology is growing at exponence in the decimals, it’s going so fast. I saw a talk the other day where I think mapping the human gene now – it was ten or fifteen years ago – cost a $100 million. Within fifteen or ten years, it now costs less than $99. And so if you think about that in the ten year span, the cost of doing one thing went from $100 million to less than $100. That’s unbelievable. You have to sit back and think of what we need to do. And the answer to your question is we have to sit back and think. We have to take time out of our practice. We have to watch less TV, watch less football, take a few minutes a day, an hour, half an hour, to read the stuff about our practice, what is going on. And what’s happened with me is the more I read, the more excited I get. The more I know, the more excited I get about the opportunities. For example, if you’re a small town lawyer anywhere in Florida, or you live in a big city. There are not enough lawyers in Montana. I think it’s North Dakota or Montana.
Adriana Linares: Well to that point, there’s an article somewhere and I will not remember the exact number but it’s either six or sixteen and it’s a crazy number. There are something like sixteen counties in the state of Georgia who do not have one single lawyer in that county. And I can’t remember the exact number, somebody can look it up.
Ray Abadin: Well there’s counties in Florida where there’s no lawyers in the county.
Adriana Linares: Do not tell me that there are not enough lawyers.
Renee Thompson: Well all of these technologies can connect these people. That’s what’s exciting, they can connect these people.
Ray Abadin: That’s right. There’s a county outside of Tallahassee, I think, where there are not enough lawyers or there are no lawyers. But there’s people living there who need legal services, who have to leave their job and travel an hour or two or ten to get to a lawyer.
Renee Thompson: These conversations are so different than conversations-
Adriana Linares: You’re freaking people out!
Renee Thompson: Yeah, these are big conversations the Bar really hasn’t had to have previously, right? I mean, we even had to address the change in the marketplace or the change in what the practice of law looks like.
Ray Abadin: Well I haven’t had to send a letter in a long time. I haven’t written a postcard in a long time. I haven’t made a phone call from a phone that’s attached to a wall in a long time. I haven’t talked to a travel agent in a long time. I haven’t made an investment in the last five years with a human being. I haven’t rented a car with a human being, and I haven’t gone to the law library and I can’t remember how long because I have data on my computer. So we are living, when you consider our lives as human beings or our lives as consumers-
Renee Thompson: They’ve changed!
Ray Abadin: Correct.
Renee Thompson: They’ve changed, and sometimes for the better. I guess the question I have for you as Bar president is how do we embrace this change with the excitement and the enthusiasm you have for all of these opportunities? It is so unique to sit and talk with you because I see the passion that you bring to these arguments-
Adriana Linares: Let’s call them discussions.
Ray Abadin: We’re lawyers, we argue.
Renee Thompson: They argue points. So when you bring all of these things forward when you talk about them, I see that you’ve not only read about them, you’ve educated yourself about them, but you’re passionate about getting that word out and getting that message out. What are you thinking in regards to how we can get the membership of the Bar engaged in this discussion? Because this is a very important question to people’s livelihood.
Ray Abadin: It is, and I think people’s livelihood can get better. I think they can work less time, make more money, they can work from their homes, they can work from the beach – because we all live in Florida. They can work in their vacation homes, single moms can work while they’re taking care of their kids-
Adriana Linares: Married moms can-
Renee Thompson: And speaking of women, let’s just take a side note here because we are talking to the Florida Bar president who not only appointed committee members, but the most women ever appointed to committee positions in the state of Florida.
Ray Abadin: I’m very proud of that, I’m very proud of that.
Adriana Linares: You should be.
Renee Thompson: What motivated you to do that? Let’s just take a moment to talk about that.
Adriana Linares: Other than the fact that we are awesome and the better gender.
Ray Abadin: Well I believe that. The reality is women have been excluded from the profession for whatever reason – not for this conversation. 50% of the law classes are women, 37% of the Florida Bar is women, so where did the 13% go? Women in large firms are having trouble breaking the glass ceilings, they’re leaving. Women are treading out of big law firms because of the work schedule. And so I thought that we need to give women opoprtunities-
Adriana Linares: The women’s president.
Ray Abadin: Well, opportunities where they didn’t have them before, and I thought, what a better way to do it than committee appointments? What a better way than to seed the committees with young women and also provide committee appointments of chairs of women to flood the committees with enough women so that we could recalibrate the imbalance. So the number was I think about 48%. So where 37% of the Bar’s female, my appointments were almost 50% women. And by the way, they were all very qualified. I didn’t appoint anyone who wasn’t qualified, it wasn’t a gender-based criteria. I asked for qualified recommendations from everyone I knew. I asked for qualified recommendations from Florida Association of Women Lawyers and women organizations and minority organizations, and other Bar associations. Dade county, Hillsborough, Orange County, all the big Bar associations, and I got lists, and I appointed off of those lists where I could. If there was a qualified woman, I appointed a qualified woman. So the qualifications was the equalizer and then the demographics came in, just to recalibrate and rebalance. But let’s go back to what we were talking about about opportunity. We need to read and understand what’s going on. First of all, I think it’s inevitable. It’s inevitable. We can get ourselves all upset and we can become fearful and fear makes people do things. And I have been afraid of the technology change and I understand everybody else being afraid. Oh my God, I don’t want to change, oh my God, I have to do something differently. And the reality is yes, you do. I’ll give you an example: I bought a new iPhone on Monday, I needed a particular cover. The cover was not available at the iPhone store. I went home, I ordered it on Amazon, and the next morning at 9:00AM, the cover that I wanted that was unavailable at the iPhone store was sitting on my desk. That’s technology. That’s the world we live in. So what I would ask lawyers to think about is why are we different than anybody else? How are we different? What law exists that says lawyers are special and they’re not subject to competition, they’re not subject to market pressure, they’re not subject to anything. The only thing that we have is we had a monopoly, we have our own rules and we’ve established these rules that actually hinder us. I’m more concerned that we won’t change.
Adriana Linares: Are you hoping to look at the rules during your presidential term?
Ray Abadin: Absolutely.
Adriana Linares: Tell me why.
Ray Abadin: Because we have to change the rules and modernize the rules. The rule, for instance, that lawyers can’t associate with non lawyers or lawyers can’t fee-split with non lawyers, were first promulgated in the mid 50’s. And so the question I ask to anyone who’s listening, do any of you do anything today in the way that it was done like it was done in the mid 50’s? Do you travel, do you communicate, do you write a letter like you did in the mid 50’s? Because I bet not very many people listening to this podcast actually have stamps at their house. Or not very many people listening to this podcast have-
Renee Thompson: I do. I love stamps!
Adriana Linares: She collects them.
Ray Abadin: But when do you send letters?
Renee Thompson: I’m the unique one.
Ray Abadin: Right, but you don’t do it in your practice, do you?
Renee Thompson: I do, I do send quite a bit of mail still.
Ray Abadin: You send pleadings by mail?
Renee Thompson: No, not pleadings, just letters, correspondence. I use email, obviously, but there are times still – there’s something to me about that.
Adriana Linares: And I think that’s the point, that that’s okay!
Ray Abadin: And you have that choice and that’s okay. But if your customer wants you to communicate by email, are you going to send them a letter?
Renee Thompson: Oh, absolutely not. It’s client service.
Ray Abadin: If your client wants you to communicate by text, are you going to send them an email?
Adriana Linares: No, you’re going to send the text.
Ray Abadin: That’s right, because your client says they want to communicate by text. So we need to use the tools of technology, just like we use tools in a tool case. And we need to understand those tools and whether we like it or not, we have to adapt. Because if you don’t adapt in life, you become extinct.
Renee Thompson: Life is changing around you.
Ray Abadin: Rapidly.
Adriana Linares: So, Ray, you like to use a lot of terms that are not comfortable for lawyers. Consumer, customer, marketplace, customer service. And I think that sometimes that throws people off. Why don’t you take a second to just tell us why those terms are important to you and why you have decided to use them instead of the usual client relationship?
Ray Abadin: Because we have to change the words. We just have to change the words to match the market. There’s an attorney client relationship – we all run businesses.
Renee Thompson: We’re in a profession where you’re in a business.
Ray Abadin: I’m a professional, and I’m very clear, I’m a professional first and foremost, but I also have to pay rent. I also have to pay salaries. I also have to pay the guy I buy pencils and pens and computers from. I also have to buy ink for my computer. So the moment I have to consume, I’m a business. My profits need to exceed my expenses so I can make money and feed my family. So we are in a business environment. We have been in an exclusive monopoly business environment where we control everything, we no longer control. Why do I sue customer instead of client? Well, because ethically as a lawyer, the person I give legal services to, the person I give legal advice to, is my client, if I look at the ethics rules. But from a business standpoint, she’s my customer, and I want to make my customer feel really good.
Adriana Linares: You want her to trust you, you want her to have good reviews about you.
Ray Abadin: I want her to trust me, and I want her to feel special, and I want her to feel that I’m taking care of her problem and I want her to feel that I’m working really hard to take care of her problem efficiently and affordably, because that’s what the consumer wants. And unfortunately now, for lawyers who think differently, unfortunately we have other people in the marketplace who are going, “Hey listen, Ray Abadin is a great lawyer who does phenomenal wills, and he charges $5,000 for a will and takes 4 months to do it. For $89, you can buy the same will from me right now when you need it.” So Ray Abadin either has to stay doing his $5,000 wills or you’ve got to go get your $89 will.
Adriana Linares: And let me tell you, were it me, as a non lawyer and as your typical client consumer customer, let me tell you where I’m going to go.
Ray Abadin: You’re going to go to the $89 one unless you have something special. But most people don’t need – well the 60% or 80% or 90%. We all don’t drive Bentleys, we drive the car we can afford. We would like to drive Bentleys but we drive the car we can afford. We all don’t have tailor-made suits. Some people have tailor-made suits, some people buy their suits.
Adriana Linares: Some people have one tailor-made suit and then the rest of them come off the rack.
Ray Abadin: Some people have ten. Some people go to Saks, some people go to Brooks Brothers, some people go to Neiman Marcus, some people go to Macy’s, some people go to Joseph Banks, some people go to Men’s Warehouse, some people go to Ross, some people go to Target, some people shop at Whole Foods, some people shop at Winn Dixie’s, some people shop at Publix. We have, in the marketplace, choice. Now the choice has come to lawyers.
Adriana Linares: You know, Ray, one of my favorite things that you have said in your Bar Convention speech and here at the Voluntary Bar, I think my favorite sentence of yours was, “We still have a say,” and I think that’s a really important message. You know, there’s going to be a lot of lawyers listening to this. Some of them are going to love everything you’re saying. Some of them, you’re going to freak them out. Some of them-
Renee Thompson: Well, change is hard.
Adriana Linares: -they’re going to hate what you’re saying. Some of them are going to start to think. But I think the most important message you have is look, this stuff is happening, but we have to stand together. So I think it’s an important message for you to say we need to do this together, we need to band as a unit. Remember the other thing you said, which was, if you want to go far-
Ray Abadin: So there’s a saying that says if you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go together. And so the reality is that’s my thinking anyway-
Adriana Linares: You’re asking these lawyers, let’s go together.
Ray Abadin: I’m asking the lawyers of Florida, we need to go together. We can control the marketplace, we still have a say.
Adriana Linares: There’s 100,000 of you, we have to be together.
Ray Abadin: The executives of Legalzoom, we’ve talked to them. They want to work with lawyers.
Renee Thompson: That’s an incredible opportunity for Florida lawyers.
Ray Abadin: Right. Instead of saying no Legalzoom, you can’t come here – by the way Legalzoom has won 13 of the last 13 legal challenges that Bar associations have brought against Legalzoom. They haven’t lost. So instead of saying no Legalzoom, lawyers can say hey Legalzoom, how can we work together? And you know what Legalzoom would say? Yes, we want to work with you.
Renee Thompson: What if lawyers were able to help people fill those forms on Legalzoom? What if lawyers were able to help them litigate matters that came out of those forms?
Adriana Linares: But they do, that’s the thing.
Ray Abadin: They do, that’s the point. And what if a lawyer in Miami, Florida-
Renee Thompson: But it’s difficult under Florida’s rules right now, they’re not going to allow that right now.
Ray Abadin: Pick a city in Florida, Sebring. What if a lawyer in Sebring could give legal advice to a person in Indiana?
Adriana Linares: Well that’s a whole different concept, sure.
Ray Abadin: Or what if a lawyer in Sebring could give legal advice to a person in a county with no other lawyers because he or she’s available to talk to them? What if a lawyer living in Spain – who’s a Florida lawyer – could work for a person in Arizona or Florida? That’s the point. Look at the glass as being half full and half full of opportunity.
Adriana Linares: It’s just full.
Ray Abadin: Not half empty, right. Look at the glass as being unbelievably full of opportunity. And if we adapt to the marketplace, we will win, because we have the commodity to see what lawyers have that nobody else has. We have ethics rules. So when I talk about releasing, lowering reciprocity, I never had said ever, and never would, anybody who wants to practice in Florida can practice. That’s not the point. Anybody who wants to practice in Florida who takes the standards that we set for certifying and regulating Florida lawyers can practice in Florida. Anyone who meets certain academic requirements, certain testing requirements, can practice in Florida. We just have to rethink the Bar so we can allow Florida Lawyers to practice elsewhere.
Renee Thompson: Well how do we pull in all of the folks across the state who are interested in being part of this conversation? How do we pull them in? This is an enormous change, it’s a thought process that requires analytical thought.
Ray Abadin: Slowly, but as quickly as possible.
Renee Thompson: You’re not joking.
Ray Abadin: Slowly but as quickly as possible because the market is not waiting. The consumer is not waiting for the slow turtle.
Adriana Linares: Is there a fast turtle?
Ray Abadin: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Ray, it’s been really special having you with us and we really appreciate it and I feel like the three of us are going to be together on a pretty regular basis over Ray’s presidency. Do you think we should trap him everywhere and every opportunity in a corner of a restaurant and-
Renee Thompson: Absolutely. I want to see where this thought leader goes.
Adriana Linares: I can’t wait!
Renee Thompson: I mean, we are talking to someone, and you know, I caution Bar members everywhere, don’t shoot the messenger. Because he’s talking about things that are probably really scary to people, but the reality is he’s talking about them and that’s what a leader’s supposed to do. They’re supposed to bring forward ideas that maybe you haven’t thought about before.
Ray Abadin: Right. And if we can just talk about them, we will all be calm and better.
Renee Thompson: And we can figure out the best solutions for our lawyers in Florida.
Ray Abadin: Exactly.
Renee Thompson: So yes, I agree. Let’s trap him, let’s pull him in at every opportunity so that Legal Talk Network listeners can have the best of President Ray Abadin.
Ray Abadin: Thank you so much for having me.
Adriana Linares: Ray, thank you very much, we appreciate it.
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