Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Social Media: Where Lawyers Show Their True Colors

For me it started when I was chatting with a former lawyer/now blog merchant on twitter. A private message came in asking me if I knew the lawyer was disbarred.


Now I deal with disbarred lawyers daily. Some are raging criminals who should of never had a law license, but most just screwed up, bad. They're otherwise good people who've hit professional, and maybe personal, bottom.

This disbarred lawyer though, was lying on his bio about why he left the law, and that bothered me. Of course he wasn't going to admit, among many other things, that he raided a trust account that was set aside for some kids. The option was to not mention he was a "recovering lawyer," and just peddle his blog templates, or come clean. After I wrote about him, he changed his bio, several times. Now I hear he no longer works with lawyers, but I don't know that for sure.

The lawyer moniker is a silver bullet for the desperate lawyers out there - tell me you practice(d) law, and that makes you just like me, check's in the mail.

After I wrote about this former lawyer, some were shocked, some acted shocked even though I knew they knew about it, and some called me a "bully," never understanding that I didn't care that he was disbarred, just that he was lying about it.

Then the floodgates opened. People privately told me about the real estate lawyer who recently pled guilty to mortgage fraud, but was still online, trying to bring in business even though her law license was suspended. I learned about the teach-you-twitter-lawyer who claimed to be an experienced corporate lawyer, but was really laid off after 8 months out of law school. It went on and on.

I realized that social media is a place where bad lawyers, liars, and those that want to corner the "how to build your practice with a computer keyboard" market come to pray on those that are just looking for "how to make money as a lawyer."

Yesterday, I learned that Mr. How to Manage a Law Firm, can't manage his own law license.

In came the typical reactions - "wow," "amazing," "guess he needs to learn to manage his own firm." And I also got the two main questions I am always asked:

1. How do you find these people?
2. Why do you care?

To answer 1, you find these people, and you tell me. You tell me because you know I'll write about them, and you won't. The sad thing is that those that tell me about these frauds, are other lawyers. Other lawyers who are here to type away, build their "brands," and stay away from anything controversial. Exposing frauds on social media is a messy business, and it doesn't bring the Google juice or SEO love.

Why do I care?

Because I'm not here for me. I'm part of a profession. A profession that is watching itself fall into a deep hole of shit. A profession where our colleagues are establishing online identities that are false. A profession where we watch our colleagues do this, and hide behind the notion that "we don't care," and that "no one's hiring these people anyway." A few (couple) bloggers write about this phenomenon, but those of you who watch this go on and do nothing, are like that kid who hides behind Mommy's leg when someone you don't know is in your presence.

I was asked yesterday what other lawyers should do besides watch me write about this issue, because "I do such a good job."

I dunno. Blog about it, tweet about it, post about it on Facebook, email other bloggers.

Or you can forget you're a lawyer, forget that the profession matters, and do nothing.

No need to get yourself or your online brand dirty, I'll take care of it.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark



Please confirm if you received my previous comment and if/when you intend to approve it to appear?

Brian Tannebaum said...

No Rjon,

There was no comment from you here. I post all comments from real people, regardless of what they say, unless they are marketing spam. You do know about marketing spam?

I see your law license is now in good standing, like your bio says. Congratulations, and good job ignoring me on twitter. You are a marvel as mastering your online brand.

I look forward to your intelligent and thoughful comments here.

Kimberly A. Graham said...

For me, whether I will tweet or post on FB about it depends on whether I can somehow verify what I’m tweeting/FBing about and whether I think a lawyer in a small town in Iowa is going to have any influence at all on what people in Florida or Indiana think about X lawyer. For instance, in the example you mention about Rjon Robbins, all I see at that link now is that his license is in good standing. I don’t know what the status was before that, and I don’t know why. If it’s just that he neglected to pay his annual renewal fee the day it was due, I don’t consider it a huge issue.

That said, I agree 100% with you about people trying to claim a vast amount of experience in this or that area of the law when they don’t really have it. Or saying they are in good standing when they’ve been disbarred. That hurts everyone, especially them, ultimately.