Among the other horrible unintended consequences of the destructive response to the Wuhan virus pandemic is that it has made professionals lazy. I just completed my first legal ethics seminar in front of a live out-of-town audience in more than two years, and only my fourth with participants I could look at and talk to in that time. I am told that lawyers like the convenience of getting their Continuing Legal Education credits using Zoom, from the comfort of their homes or offices.
In the program two days ago, for example, ten lawyers attended by coming to the classroom, but over 190 watched remotely.
Well, as our children found out over the past two years of panic and fearmongering, remote learning doesn’t work. I know that many of those seminar attendees out in Zoomland are doing billable work, or playing with their dogs, or otherwise not giving the topic their full attention. Legal ethics is essential for a self-policing profession like the law, and ethics is hard; being an ethical lawyer takes practice. In trainings, that means being tested with tough questioning by the instructor ( that is, me). Now, however, most lawyers want to exert the least effort possible while getting their mandatory credits, meaning that they are not taking their responsibilities seriously. Many will suffer for this. More importantly, clients will suffer.
In this vein, I praised the attorneys who eschewed Zoom the past two days, and told them that I would reward each them of the with a gratis hour’s worth of ethics consultation over the next twelve months. I charge $390 an hour, so if the time is used, it will more than cover their fee for the seminar.
I then learned that two of the Zoom attendees complained bitterly to the state sponsors. They hadn’t known that I would be handing out that bonus, they said; if they had, they said they would have come in person too. There’s a flaw in this reasoning: I don’t receive the fees for the session, and the sponsoring group wasn’t giving out the free hours. It was a spontaneous gesture on my part.
Nonetheless, I agreed to let the sponsor tell the angry Zoomers that they could have a free hour too, even though they hadn’t earned it.