The author examines the communications and activities of bankruptcy lawyers participating in the listserv of the Bankruptcy Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and finds that those activities constitute a previously unrecognized form of “lawyering,” which he has defined as the work of lawyers in and through the legal system to accomplish the objectives of their clients. Review of specific postings about legal issues and practical problems by Texas bankruptcy lawyers, whose practices are primarily on behalf of individual debtors in cases under Chapters 7 and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, and observations about the voluntary, collaborative, and uncompensated nature of those activities collectively undergird four main insights that, in turn, inform
the author’s formulation of a specific definition of such activities, which he
denominates “listserv lawyering.” Even though legal listservs have generally
declined in popularity since their heyday in the 1990s, the author recommends other bar groups take notice of the successful Texas Bankruptcy Listserv and reconsider listservs as a means of maintaining competence in the service of clients, fostering a stronger sense of community among lawyers, and heightening practitioners’ professionalism—not only in bankruptcy practice but in all substantive areas of legal services.
While this article's focus on the listserv from the State Bar of Texas does feature the rather unabashed parochialism that abounds in Texas, with barely a mention of other state bankruptcy listservs (Neither the very active NC Bar Bankruptcy Section listserv or NC NACBA spotted), and similarly displays the myopia that corporate bankruptcy attorneys have towards the consumer bar, with the NACBA listservs mentioned in a tossed off footnote and other robust groups, like Max Gardner's Bootcamp, completely unseen, the recognition that Facebook groups are displacing listservs is apt, especially the reasons why those have recently gained in popularity.
It is the section on the ethics of "Listserv Lawyering", however, that should be required reading not only by the managers and moderators of Listservs, Google Groups and Facebook pages, but by every attorney that posts and comments on through those resources. While invaluable, particularly to the lawyers at small firms or just starting a practice, who "often lack easy access to pricey resources such as Collier on Bankruptcy" (Again corporate attorneys seem unaware of the often more practical NCLC Digital Library or Lundin on Chapter 13), too often lawyers participating in these communications pay far less attention to questions of client confidentiality.
An unexplored aspect of the ethics of "listserv lawyering" are the lurkers, who while obviously not under any duty to post or respond to comments, can often seem somewhat duplicitous in their silence, particularly as it takes advantage of naivete of newer attorneys, many of whom have a generational tendency to "over share". Mixed listservs are most problematic, as there can be trustees or even judges watching from dark corners.
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