Friday, July 31, 2009

A Google Search Tells All: "how to market yourself as a good lawyer"

In today's world of lawyering, it is not the lawyer, but the perception of the lawyer that brings in the dough.

No longer does a lawyer need to work to become a "good" lawyer by handling cases to the satisfaction of clients.

It's all about the marketing. Pretend you are a good lawyer, and convince the unknowing public of the bullshit you are trying to peddle. It's not about reputation, it's about making money.

Present yourself as a good lawyer on your website, on Facebook, on twitter, and maybe even with the aid of those that have left their "wildly successful" law practices to now teach you not how to practice, but how to market.

You want to be a good marketer, hire a marketing maven. Going down that road, I'd be "wildly" suspicious of any "former lawyer" who claims to have the secrets.

You want to be a good lawyer, then lawyer. Practice, law.

A marketing maven can't teach you to try cases, or how to get a judge or other respected lawyer to say you are a "good" lawyer. A marketing maven can only teach you how to create an image that is not necessarily your reality.

You can "market yourself as a good lawyer all day." It's called lying.

You either are a good lawyer, or play one on the web.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Florida Board of Bar Examiners Rejects Blanket Policy Excluding All Felons

From The Florida Bar News:

FBBE rejects call for a blanket policy excluding all felons from admission

By Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners rejected a recommendation from its Character and Fitness Commission that convicted felons need not apply to be a Florida lawyer.

“We did not adopt that recommendation. We believe our current practice is sufficient, and we should consider each case on a case-by-case basis,” said Reginald Hicks, chair of the FBBE. He said the board voted July 16 during its meeting in Palm Beach Gardens.

Hicks said the board “talked about the different degrees of felonies.”

But, he said, “the overriding concern was about a lack of uniformity about who gets to defer prosecution, mitigating factors, and plea deals,” as well as who can afford the best lawyers for the best outcomes when charged with a felony.

“All of that warrants case-by-case determination,” Hicks said.

After studying admissions standards, the first review in 15 years, the Character and Fitness Commission, chaired by Third District Court of Appeal Senior Judge Alan Schwartz, submitted its final report March 2 (see story in April 15 News).

Among the most significant changes the commission recommended was even if civil rights have been restored, convicted felons should not have the privilege of practicing law in Florida, and there should be no second chances for disbarred lawyers.

“We just felt it was inappropriate to have convicted felons barred from being on the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and being teachers and masseurs, and a whole slew of what would seem to be nonresponsible positions, and not have it impossible to be a felon for a lawyer,” Schwartz told the News after the commission’s report was filed with the court.

Justice Fred Lewis, who appointed the commission, added at that time: “When people ask, ‘How is it you can be a lawyer and a judge as a convicted felon, but I can’t teach school? Or you can’t be a police officer.’ How does one answer that?”

The board answered the question by voting to keep the present Rule 2-13.3 that says a person who has been convicted of a felony is not eligible to apply until the person’s civil rights have been restored.

The commission recommended disbarment, under existing Bar guidelines, should be permanent, as it is in five states.

“It’s really the same kind of consideration, which gave rise to the felon decision,” Schwartz explained earilier. “We thought it unseemly to have formally disbarred lawyers back in the practice of law and sometimes embarrassing the Bar by committing further wrongs. If you are disbarred, you should be disbarred. But that, of course, means that since it is permanent, or would be permanent, it should be reserved for extreme cases.”

Because disbarment would be permanent, the commission also recommended that Bar discipline guidelines be revised to allow for suspension from the practice for up to five years (currently three years) and amend the rules to require attorneys who have been suspended in Florida for three years or more to reapply for Bar admission.

Asked what the Florida Board of Bar Examiners recommends on the disbarment issue, FBBE Executive Director Michele Gavagni said, “The bottom line was the board will support whatever the Bar decides to do. Disbarment is a Bar rule. We have rules regarding filing an application to get back in. But we are going to have to take a back seat to whatever the Bar decides.”

As this News went to press, Gavagni was busy editing the FBBE response to the commission’s report. She said she planned to file the FBBE response at the Supreme Court soon, and the court then will determine whether it will follow a similar process as rule changes, with opportunities for public comment. She said the court could embrace the commission’s recommendations or the FBBE’s response or any combination

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


AVVO CEO Mark Britton Weighs In On Martindale Pay to Play AV Scheme, 2 Years Ago

So my post "exposing" Martindale Hubbell for charging a fee to tell users of it's website which lawyers were AV rated, got a big yawn in the twittersphere.

Scott Greenfield, who's always up for a good discussion of cheesy lawyer marketing, penned his usual thought-out response, which also generated a few passersby.

My thought, either the twitter lawyer world is mostly not AV rated as many are LINO's (lawyers in name only), they paid the $50 fee, or they just would never consider publicly criticizing any lawyer marketing God in fear of losing their right to pretend they were good lawyers.

Not even AVVO CEO Mark Britton had anything to say. I was surprised. AVVO is the new kid on the block in the same neighborhood as living in the starter home down the street. Surely Mark would jump on this.

He did.

Two years ago.

Newsflash: AVVO rating still free!

"A note to my fellow lawyers: While others may charge you $50 for a rating, the Avvo Rating is still free. Please accept this blog post as an invitation to do the following with your Avvo Rating at any time (and for free): Look at it, hug it, show it to your clients, taunt your coworkers with it, display it in your marketing materials, link to it on your website, email it to your Mother, or issue a press release about it. If I left anything out, I am inviting you to do that too for free.

OK, so why the newsflash? Well, I’m poking a bit of fun at Martindale Hubbell who, according to the blog Arbitrary and Capricious, is now charging $50 to rate lawyers.

Mark, predicting I would write about this two years later, makes my point: "They have one of the oldest rating systems that is respected by lawyers (we even consider it in the Avvo Rating); and as a Martindale executive my worry would be that such a “pay to play” model would only undermine that respect.
Marks post, received 3 responses, none of which had anything to do with his post.

So about 15 people care about this.

Congratulations Martindale, you win. Lawyers, and potential clients, lose.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Today: The Bar Exam

I figured a light post would be appropriate for all those taking the Bar Exam today. Good luck. It's the hardest test I ever took.

Watch: The Bar Exam

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Friday, July 24, 2009 To Lawyers: You're Great, Now Pay Us

Yesterday, I received this email:

Dear Brian L. Tannebaum,

Martindale-Hubbell works with American Registry to help AV Rated attorneys such as yourself maximize the opportunity for leveraging your Peer Review Rating.

As one of a select few attorneys to have achieved the highest possible rating of AV, we want you to be aware that your rating is currently NOT being displayed on or

To restore the display of your rating normally costs $59. Now through 8/7/09, you can both save 15%, and pay by invoice on net 30 terms.

You will be invoiced for $50.15 and your AV Rating will once again appear beside your listing on both and

If you have any questions or concerns about this fee or being invoiced, please contact me, Pat Barnes, by replying to this email, or by phone at 800-892-6998 x2.

Well, Pat, I do have some concerns.

You see before there was Super Lawyers or any other marketing magazine touted as the official list of the greatest lawyers in the country or local community, Martindale stood alone.

According to Martindale, "An AV® certification mark is a significant rating accomplishment - a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence. A lawyer must be admitted to the bar for 10 years or more to receive an AV® rating.

This is real. It's not determined by lawyers themselves sending out ballots saying "I voted for you......." Martindale painstakingly attempts to rate lawyers by peer-review. Many Super Lawyers or other darlings of the marketing magazines, don't belong there. What the hell is a "Super Lawyer" anyway? Is it a lawyer who won an impossible case, one who does 500 hours a year of pro bono work, or one who has mentored many young lawyers? I don't know.

The other aspect of this rating is that Martindale has always stood firm that whether the lawyer is a subscriber to Martindale-Hubbell (those big books listing lawyers around the world that are no longer relevant) or (Martindale's step into the 21st century) is irrelevant in the rating process. YOu can be rated even if you've never sent Martindale a dime.

This is still the case.


Although Martindale may think you are a great, or "AV" rated lawyer, they will not tell anyone without a check for $59 (now discounted to $50).

The website, advertised with that cheesy fake law school class setting with the professor saying that instead of a referral, going to a website is the better move, is now deceptive.

If Martindale wants to be the leader in directing consumers to lawyers, good lawyers, why don't they say the following on the website: is part of Martindale Hubbell. For decades, we have rated lawyers based on ethics and experience. Many of the lawyers listed here are AV rated, which is our highest rating. However, we do not disclose that here, unless those lawyers pay us.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blogging The Florida Board of Bar Examiners Hearings - A Question - Are You Accurate, Or Candid?

Just got back from a weekend of hearings and as usual, learned that there is never an end to what there is for applicants to know about the Florida Bar admission process.


What is the matter with you people? I've said this before, consider it "the charging document." Consider it the charging document the minute you start filling it out.

Let me shock you. The person reading your Bar Application, has read one or two or 300 before. What's the point? You're not that smart. To me, it's a simple rule: If you consider for 3 seconds whether to disclose something on the application, disclose. Yes, they will find out. Yes, even if....... and yes, even if.........

If you want to guarantee a hearing, be coy, less than complete, or write something that will be contradicted by the person writing a letter to the Bar to say they dispute your memory of whatever it is you are disclosing.

If you have something to explain to the Board, explain it in full on the application. This is unless of course, again, you would like to go to a hearing and be cross examined by three people for an hour.

Listen, if there's an arrest, educational discipline, mental, drug or alcohol or financial issue, you are more likely to have a hearing. This is not a certainty. It is a certainty if your answers are bullshit. By "bullshit," well, you know what I mean.


If you were arrested for DUI (which happens to an occasional college or law student), here's two different responses on the Bar Application:

Response 1:

"I was arrested for DUI. I was not convicted because the State Attorney announced in court that they were dismissing the case. My license was not suspended. I attended an alcohol class and disclosed this to my law school."

Response 2:

After leaving a bar where I had 3 beers in a period of an hour, I was arrested for DUI. I was stopped for speeding and weaving. I took the breath test, which was .081. When I went to court, the prosecutor said if I agreed to attend an alcohol class he would drop the case. I attended the class, which was a 3 week class, 2 nights a week for 2 hours at a time. My license was not suspended, and 2 days after my arrest I disclosed this in writing to my law school. All paperwork related to this response is attached. I realize I should not have been drinking and driving, and have had no incidents prior to or after this related to alcohol.

Which one do you like better? Wait, don't answer that.


This is not a pretty debate. It goes back to the answer above. Both are accurate. Answer 2 is candid.

Bar hearings are not a time for accuracy, they are a time for candid answers. Full, disclosure. If you are being accurate, consider yourself to be lying. That's as simple as I can make it for you. The Board is attempting to get a picture of who you really are, not how good you are at answering questions.


My opinion on this issue is consistent with how I feel about all legal process: I don't engage in any without a lawyer. I'm not that smart to represent myself on matters I know nothing about, and realized six months out of law school that even though my family and friends thought because I was a lawyer I knew everything, I didn't, and don't.

So do me a favor, hire a Bar lawyer, or don't. Bringing your "friend" who's a lawyer is silly. The Board could care less if a lawyer is there at the hearing. A Bar lawyer helps you prepare and makes sure that all evidence important to your hearing is provided and presented properly. Occasionally, there is some confusion in the hearing or other legal issue that needs to be addressed, but for the most part, your Bar lawyer helps you get your application in order and prepares you to walk in that room and answer questions.

Why some of you think that just having someone there with a Bar card is somehow making you look better is beyond me. Once that hearing starts, the applicant is the show. You are entitled to have a person there besides yourself and a lawyer. If you're not going to hire a lawyer, bring your mom, your dad, a grandparent, but leave the civil litigator or divorce lawyer at home.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's Not "Coming Back."

Any lawyer or law firm who believes that things will “come back,” or “get better,” is living in a dream world.

Nothing is “coming back,” and things will not “get better.” Things have changed and will continue to change.

Forever? Who knows, but any lawyer or law student should proceed under the notion that things will get worse, for the near “forever.”

BigLaw, is over. There will continue to be large law firms, as corporate America can’t have their work done by 2 guys sharing space and a secretary. BigLaw, as in marble floors, embossed coffee mugs, overpaid and underqualified associates assigned 2 to a client, 3 times marked up copies and faxes, and summer programs more like summer camp, is over.

Billing as we know it, is over. No more .2 for a phone call, or .3 for a form letter. Write as many letters as you want lawyers, talk on the phone all you want. The fee will not be worth writing worthless letters, or having worthless phone calls.

The Yellow Pages, are over. The big fat Martindale-Hubbell books, are over. Books in general, are over. ThomsonWest, Lexis, your “20% off” books, is mostly ignored.

Receptionists, are a luxury. Press “1” for Joe Smith, will be the norm very soon. Joe may be in the office, or may not have an office.

Clients, will pay for services, not lobby furniture. Clients will hire lawyers over the phone, internet, and via video conference in their underwear from their family room.

It’s over, as we know it. Wait for it to “come back,” you’ll be waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

No, I have no studies, no statistics, no articles to back up what I am saying here. But I’m telling you, it’s over, as we know it.

Don’t you see it? BigLaw canceling summer camp, deferring new hires, law schools deferring new students? BigLaw is eating their last morsel of their lines of credit, and shedding people by the dozens.

What’s the point?

Unless you are a lawyer who offers needed services, let me say this more clear, unless you, you, are a lawyer, not a cog in the wheel, who offers needed, needed services, you have no future in this business.


Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Where Will All The Lawyers Go?

One of the Dean's of Solo Law Practice, Carolyn Elefant, writes that lawyers are moving to the "right."

The "right Carolyn speaks of "is the bold, creative side of the brain that typically doesn't get much of a workout by analytically minded, left-brained lawyers."

Elefant mentions one former in-house counsel at former Lehman Brothers who is now running a marketing Web site for professionals, and another former BigLaw who left to "fulfill his passion for interior design.

The question is asked: "Has the recession forced you to consider leaving the law for a job you always dreamed of? And do you think that your background as a lawyer would help or hinder your success in another field?"

As to the first question, the answer is of course "yes." There has got to be thousands of lawyers who have considered leaving the law. There are too many lawyers, too little work, and too many lawyers who got in to get rich, having no passion for practicing law. This is the time for those who never wanted to be lawyers, to strongly consider being something else. It is also the time for "real" lawyers to consider a second career. Nothing wrong with that at all. The economy is about supply and demand. If there's no supply for you, even if you love what you do, time for something else.

On the second question, being a lawyer can both help/hinder success in another field. If you've been stuck in a library for 4 years as a "lawyer," obviously customer service jobs or marketing careers are not for you. If you can't have a decent conversation with someone else, looks like sending letters ending with "GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY" is your only option.

On the other hand, if you're a client-based lawyer, or trial lawyer, sitting in an office alone is probably not your thing.

Elefant's post raises an issue that is hard to discuss amongst lawyers - what else is there?

It's no different for any professional or person dedicated to their career. It is understandable and troubling at the same time to think that there is nothing else in the world that can be done to make a living than the job you are doing right now.

But it is the time to consider doing something else, especially if right now being a lawyer is not what you expected.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Super Lawyers: The Best Criminal Defense Lawyers, Are Prosecutors

I've gotten bored with Super Lawyers.

I'm actually bored with all these magazine collections of lawyers, purporting to be just incredible advocates and therefore worthy of the privilege of buying overpriced ads, overpriced plaques, and publishing overused announcements letting the public know that you, in fact, are just awesome.

Clients think it's cool, they enjoy looking at the worthless plaques, dated as late as 2007, in my office lobby that make them think they made the right decision. The plaques for 2008 and beyond are not forthcoming, much to the chagrin and suprise of the marketers who call and congratulate me on my newest opportunity to spend money to let everyone know how great these people think they think I am. My parents recently called to congratulate me on again another year of Super, probably disappointed that they were more interested in the accolade than I.

Frankly, I look at these lists, and some of the lawyers aren't all that Super. Maybe they think the same of me. I don't vote, don't send emails saying "I voted for you, so, ahem.......," or otherwise solicit votes.

I think these awards-masked-as-revenue-generating-ad-books pick good lawyers, and some duds. Nothing's perfect.

But in Gainesville, Florida, apparently two Super criminal defense lawyers, are prosecutors.

Yes, Alachua County Assistant State Attorney Jim Colaw is a Super criminal defense lawyer, devoting 100% of his practice to criminal defense. Only problem is that he's a prosecutor, and always has been I hear.

Not to be out done, Gainesville Federal Prosecutor Francis (Frank) Williams, is also a Super Duper criminal defense lawyer.

Most troubling, is that the way I verified these two were prosecutors, was by checking the Florida Bar website. Super Lawyers, did check this website, I trust? Colaw's email address is "sao8" as in "State Attorney's Office 8th Circuit, and Williams email is the well known "" that is assigned to all federal prosecutors. They, work at the United States Department of Justice.

A retired prosecutor friend of mine used to say that he acquitted more defendants in Miami than any criminal defense lawyer.

Maybe that's what Super Lawyers meant.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit