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