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September 10, 2007

Three Young Lawyers and a 32 Foot 'Abogadomovil' Taking Law to Georgia Immigrants

Thanks to James Perrin of Atlanta, Georgia for this story which is inspiring on every level.  Three young lawyers ditched Big Law five years ago and have combined social activism with creativity, smelling of gasoline and sweat, as they practice their trade for the benefit of immigrants in Georgia crossing the state in their motorcoach.'

It's fiberglass, 32 feet long and goes by the name "Abogadomovil," or "Lawyermobile." The RV acts as a roving office for Jamie Hernan, Christopher Taylor and Jerome Lee, the boyish-looking barristers whose larger-than-life likenesses adorn both sides.

Ringed with flags from across the Americas, the vehicle rolls into apartment complexes and soccer matches offering Spanish-language tutorials on immigration law. The RV has ferried petitions and protesters to Washington, D.C. And the billboard on wheels always carries the same message. "Hernan, Taylor & Lee," it reads. "Los Abogados Para Ti." (The Lawyers For You.)

The Roswell-based firm's blend of guerrilla marketing and social activism has made it among the biggest — and most controversial — players in a state whose illegal immigrant population has swelled to nearly half a million. Fans say the Georgia-raised attorneys are at the forefront of the latest fight for a marginalized group in the cradle of the civil rights movement. Critics call them profiteers whose activism is more about the bottom line. All agree they are the faces of resistance as communities across the region, frustrated with federal inaction, try to do something about illegal immigration.

They are controversial, to say the least. But I am impressed with their complete removal from the second wave mentality, taking their business on the road and going to this disenfranchised, demoralized population and providing exceptional services with amazing heart. 

It also supports a very important concept.  You are the product.  Everything else is overhead.  Therefore, no one but you can determine whether you should be servicing your clients in a high rise or in their home; sitting on italian leather waiting room chairs sipping Perrier or guzzling cokes in your local greasy spoon; using 50 lb  three-color letterhead or free Vista business cards. You choose your overhead expenses....but the client chooses you based upon you, the product, and the services you can deliver to meet their needs.

Regardless your stance on immigration, this is impressive from the perspective of innovation, revolt against second wave (Big) lawyering and a return to a time when professionals did 'house calls.'


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Chuck Wolff

I started my practice in January 2005 following a late life career change. Since I'm in a rural area, largely agricultural, part of my plan always included making house calls, which now is the most enjoyable part of my work. The plus is that by meeting clients on their turf, you learn things about them and their situations that could easily be missed in a sterile office interview. It's really a hoot to ride around in a combine harvesting corn with a farmer while discussing his estate plan, or the sale of a building lot so he can pay his taxes. Or following the family around in a diary barn.

Another benefit is working in my office on my own small farm, watching my horses play across the pond from where I sit with my dogs lying around the wood stove. Clients who do come in immediately see that I'm one of them, and that they're not paying for Italian leather chairs, but much more affordable cord wood.

I'm certainly not getting rich, but I am servicing a clientèle too wealthy for a free lawyer at the local university clinic and too poor to afford one from the nearest city.

Not all "income" is measurable in dollars. It doesn't get much better than this...

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