A Question For Rachel Rodgers – If It’s Not Legal Advice, What Is It?

I didn’t want to write about Rachel Rodgers again. Really, I didn’t. Rachel is smart, web savvy, and pretty cute. Honestly, I feel like a big hurtful bully by continually writing about the stuff she does. If Rachel were selling real estate or things on etsy, I would probably give her props. She is a heck of a business person and makes nice websites. We are also both are fans of Tim Ferriss.

But this is law we are talking about, and Rachel is continually finding new and clever ways to straddle that grey line of “is that ethical.”

Today, Rachel’s new venture takes the cake. Absolutely takes the cake. I tried not to write about it, I really did. But I just couldn’t resist. This is truly unbelievable…

Her latest venture is the “Small Business Bodyguard.” So what exactly is “Small Business Bodyguard?” I’m not really sure. But according to Rachel’s disclaimer, whatever it is, it’s not legal advice or a law firm:

“We think it goes without saying (but we’re gonna say it anyway because, ya know, covering our ass and all that), the legal resources provided within this website including the legal clinic for small business owners delivered via email, live events including webinars and screencasts educating business owners about laws affecting their businesses and the digital, full-length legal resource available for purchase are resources for educational and informational purposes only and should not take the place of hiring an attorney.

Using this website and the legal resources, paid and free, does not create an Attorney-Client relationship between you and Rachel Rodgers Consulting LLC and House of Moxie, Inc. or their founders (that’s us!). Customized legal advice is not provided within this website or any of the resources available for sale. Instead, Small Business Bodyguard is a legal resource designed to make you aware of the key legal needs of your business and provide tools you can use to meet those needs.

Rachel Rodgers Consulting LLC and House of Moxie, Inc. are not a law firm. If you need legal advice, you should hire an attorney. Within the full-length legal resource available for purchase, we provide a directory of lawyers and pro bono legal service providers.”

Okay. It’s a “legal resource” and involves a “legal clinic.” The information is available for purchase, but it’s for “informational purposes only.” Don’t worry, it’s not legal advice because “customized advice” is not provided.

It looks like legal advice. It smells like legal advice. But according to Rachel it’s not legal advice because it’s not “customized advice.” Um, ok.

I mean really, it’s not legal advice:

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Protecting your business from legal mayhem? An Independent Contractor Agreement plus how to use it? Isn’t that, um… I don’t know, legal advice? (plus, Rachel can guarantee you won’t get sued or indicted now. Cool!)

Although it’s not legal advice because Rachel says it isn’t, Rachel compares the value of whatever is being provided… to legal services:

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Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 6.38.22 PMBut if it’s not legal advice, how can the value be compared to legal services…?

Nevermind.

Okay, but clearly her clients understand that this isn’t “legal advice”, and it’s only for “informational and educational purposes only”? And if they don’t understand that, Rachel will correct them, right?

Errr….

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Alright, so maybe it is legal advice even though Rachel said it’s not legal advice. But Rachel is a lawyer, so what’s the big deal? Isn’t that what lawyers do, give legal advice? 

Just one tiny problem. Rachel’s partner isn’t a lawyer. She’s a marketeer:

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Last time I checked, I am pretty sure the Rules of Professional Conduct have a prohibition on lawyers splitting fees with non-lawyers. And non-lawyers from giving legal advice. And lawyers from helping non-lawyers give legal advice. But maybe I’m wrong, who knows?

At least Rachel’s partner Ash is honest that they are providing legal advice:

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Oh, and Ash isn’t just Rachel’s partner, she also happens to be one of Rachel’s clients. Because lawyers doing business with clients is a great idea…

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All that aside, I do have some good news for you. Apparently this is good in all 50 states: 

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But how does a lawyer not licensed in a state know if, let alone opine that, err…

Forget it. I give up

So why am I bothering to write about this?

A few years ago, Rachel had some problems with unauthorized practice of law, which lead to an inquiry from the Arizona State Bar, although the charges were dismissed. Then she had more problems with giving legal advice over the internet.

So did Rachel wise up? Perhaps learn a thing or two?

Nope. Rachel still deems anyone who questions ethical issues in her practice as “naysayers” and “critics.” She is still raging against “all this ethics crap.

And now it seems like Rachel is trying to double down. I mean, it’s one thing to run a virtual law office in a state where you are not licensed to practice, or to accidentally give legal advice in a YouTube video. But it is something entirely different to partner up with a non-lawyer / client and purport to sell “non-legal advice” (while comparing its value to bona fide legal advice), claim it is good in all 50 states (48 of which Rachel isn’t licensed in), and represent to consumers this “not legal advice” will keep you from getting sued or indicted. (Who could have predicted the Rakofskylypse?)

A lawyer can’t just disclaim away the Rules of Professional Conduct even when they are inconvenient or stand in the way of making money. 

So while I appreciate Rachel’s attempt to help small business owners “cover their asses”, I will be curious to see how well she has covered her own if this venture doesn’t work out like she planned. Just how long will the cheekiness and disclaimers allow Rachel to avoid some serious questions from a state bar association? What if that disclaimer doesn’t hold up?

And what if that disclaimer isn’t even construed as a disclaimer…?

To quote David Sugerman, an attorney malpractice lawyer:

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11 Responses to A Question For Rachel Rodgers – If It’s Not Legal Advice, What Is It?

  1. […] Go read Jordan Rushie making some solid sense of this thing over at Philly Law […]

  2. that anonymous coward says:

    I sort of pictured it as one of those real estate infomercials on late night tv. They offer a free get together and then pressure you into buying the WHOLE system at the event.
    To avoid appearing they were that fly-by-night, they charge you a fee to tell you all of the horrible things that can happen to you, and its an amazing value!!
    Of course if your really want to protect yourself, you need to sign up at the bronze level.
    The bronze level is good, but really it is a much better value to sign up at the silver level and you get this drink cozy.
    Now if your REALLY serious about protecting your business, you should definitely sign up for the gold level program, you get a desk set with that.
    The real business moguls go for the diamond level and its recurring monthly billing, but you get the best protection and news updates about things your going to screw up and get sued out of existence over unless you have us.

    Perhaps she needs to sign up for her own service first.

    • Speaking of which, kind of unrelated, do you remember Don Lapre? The “Tiny little classified ads!” guy?

      Apparently he committed suicide. Don Lapre was the original pitchman. At least as I remember it.

      • that anonymous coward says:

        Such a sad ending to an odd life.
        And sadly my curse is remembering odd things like this.

  3. Ken says:

    Tell me this is made up.

    • that anonymous coward says:

      I am sorry Ken, this appears to be a real thing.
      There wasn’t a single pony picture or a LoLCat stinger at the end saying gotcha!

  4. SJD says:

    Why not simply to pass the Bar exam? Paul Duffy did, Jacques Nazaire did…

  5. One of the biggest problems with this type of scheme is that, like Russian roulette, it will appear to work in most cases. Most of the time, nothing bad will happen; this is true of most lawyer malpractice. Cyanide will reliably kill you whereas walking on the train tracks drunk at night is 98% safe and 2% lethal. But this isn’t walking on the train tracks; this is a lawyer promising safe passage on foot explicitly on the tracks and selling the tracks as cheaper than a cab home, pocketing the entrance fees.

    Heck the moron even promises that the customer won’t get sued; I can’t promise that because I cannot deliver on my client not getting sued. At first glance I saw her as creative and smart but Greenfield’s right; she’s cancer (my word not his.)

  6. My mouth was hanging open by the time I got to the “it works in all fifty states” bit. OMG. I’m reporting this to the consumer protection section of my state’s AG. And probably to the ethics committee. In fact, this may be a mandatory reporting…going to look that up.

  7. […] have already noted the ethical problems raised by Rachel’s schemes like Small Business Bodyguard, so there is no need for further […]

  8. David says:

    If giving unpersonalized legal information is UPL then NOLO should be shut down immediately. I really think it’s borderline ridiculous that legal information should be considered practice or that it could somehow only be delivered by nonlawyers. While there might be a technical argument I find that where ever a legal interpretation gives you a ridiculous result that you really need to think about if you’re wrong or not.

    However, the assertion that if you follow the guide you won’t get sued is absolutely opening her up to a negligent publication/mb implied warranty action from someone who does everything and does get sued. In short it’s really really stupid and anyone who gets consulting from her needs their head examined.

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