Topics affecting the legal industry
Samples of Proposed Text Solicitations
Jacob Stuart Jr. is a bit of a rarity when it comes to
lawyers: He’s also the owner of a software company.
It was precisely Stuart’s love of the law that led
him into the realm of tech startups last year. His
company, George Stuart Legal Supplies, is developing software to obtain the cellphone numbers of
Floridians who have been arrested or received traffic tickets, then solicit them via text message. Stuart himself isn’t a techie—he majored in philosophy
and religion at Emory University before getting his
MBA and law degree at Stetson University—but he
surrounds himself with people who know the ins
and outs of coding. His plan is to make the texting
service available to lawyers throughout the state.
This, he says with the conviction of a preacher, is
an important part of the legal profession’s future.
“There’s a Pew report that says 81 percent of
millennials gather their information from mobile
devices,” says Stuart, 31. “So you have this growing
population of people who are getting traffic tickets
and being arrested, and they don’t know their
rights and certain things they’re entitled to under
the law. How do they get that information? This
allows lawyers to stay relevant and to be active
participants in the new direct economy.”
The idea came to Stuart and his firm colleagues
out of the blue: “We were spending $12,000 a
month in direct mail, and we just started thinking
that there’s got to be a better way,” says Stuart, an
Orlando native. “Literally, we were having a beer
after work, and it just hit us: ‘ Why not text?’”
The idea was simple, but the road to achieving
it was filled with obstacles. The Florida Bar’s ad-
vertising committee felt texting would be intrusive
and violate the spirit of the rule allowing direct-
mail solicitation. In July 2015, however, the Florida
Bar’s board of governors overruled the advertising
committee and approved texting, thanks in part to
the advocacy of Bar president Ramón Abadin.
“This is a sign of the modern times,” Abadin
told the Daily Business Review. “I’m happy to see a
Bar board committee contemplating and reflect-
ing decisions on those changes at the request of a
group of young lawyers who want to communicate
with their clients over a mobile platform.”
Florida became the second state to allow law-
yers to solicit by text message, following Ohio in
2013. Stuart sees a day when it will be approved
Jacob Stuart Jr.
‘Why Not Text?’
How Jacob Stuart Jr. got the state Bar to agree to a 21st-century kind of solicitation BY WILLIAM WAGNER
in every state. “I think it’s inevitable,” he says.
Stuart’s company, which he co-owns with at-
torneys Chris Kaigle, Bruce Mount Jr. and Charity
Tonelli, is still in its incubator stage and plans to
go “live” sometime this summer.
“Quite honestly, we thought the Bar would never
approve this,” he says with a laugh. “When they
did, it was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. There are a lot of
things we need to do now to ramp up.’”
The idea is straightforward: searching public
records for cell numbers of potential clients whose
mobile-device service plans include free texting.
The execution, however, has been daunting.
“We’re making sure it’s perfect,” says Stuart,
who stresses that Stuart, Mount & Boylston is a
separate entity from George Stuart Legal Supplies.
“We want to make sure we’re doing it legally
and complying with the Florida Bar and federal
law. ... There’s certain statutory language you have
to abide by that makes the texts unusually long.”
“It’s not for everyone,” Stuart admits. “Lawyers
have to balance the responsibility to maintain our
professionalism, but at the same time, we have
to remain relevant and also make sure the rights
of Floridians are protected. ... Lawyers who don’t
adapt will become obsolete.”