Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Where Have All The Lawyers Gone?

The fallout from my post on a lawyer who complained that his ability to create a civil practice partly by gaining experience on criminal defendants, can be summed up as: "you're mean, thank you." The "thank you" came from the young lawyer to whom I was probably a bit unfair - splattering his email on my blog, not removing his name.

Sure, he sent it to 4,000 people, and as a lawyer, he knows that making a public statement is just that - public. But in today's world, it's all about coddling, being nice, not ruffling feathers, giving hugs, and making sure everyone's happy. The desire for mentors - real mentors who will tell it like it is - is almost gone. The 50 or so comments convinced me of this: Few of today's young lawyers want mentors, we are more concerned about whether someone is being "mean" then whether they are being honest, although there are still some young lawyers who don't mind being told they are not as cute as everyone on their listserv is telling them.

Here's a sampling of what lawyers, yes, lawyers, had to say:

Are you just looking for content for your blog?

...unfortunately, many people on the list spent far more time taking this lawyer to task for seeking advice than actually trying to help him out.

You posted a highly-critical and demeaning attack on another lawyer, and you didn't bother to contact that lawyer to get his perspective. That's not fair. In fact, it's just plain wrong.

I think you have done the profession a disservice in this post.

And from the lawyer who was the subject of the post?

Brian, shg, Carolyn, and everyone else, I will take your advice. It is not lost on deaf ears. ...I do not agree with everything that has been said, but I wanted you all to understand that I am listening instead of tuning you out. My defensiveness was instinctual, but it's not the end all be all of my personality. I will learn, because I must. I'm not a fan of hard knocks, but sometimes they are necessary.

I became a lawyer to be an advocate. When I graduated, I started advocating. After a few years of learning, I thought I'd try to earn a living from what I learned, all the while continuing to learn. The internet was nothing. It was all about the yellow pages. We were told that to get business you had to meet people, do a good job, and build a reputation. Some decided to avoid all that by renting billboards, buying the back cover of the yellow pages, sending mailers, and anything else that would yell "HIRE ME." And hire me they did. Most prospective clients are looking for a lawyer, any lawyer. The key for me was to be a lawyer for those clients looking for a certain type of lawyer. It was hard. I didn't have 12 people in my lobby waiting to write me $500 checks. I was looking for that one client a week.

Today the path is graduation, twitter account, Facebook fan page, buy iPad, buy newer iPad, stand in line for yet newer iPad, hire SEO guy to get you to the first page of Google, and fake it 'till you make it. The marketers will say that they will only market for competent lawyers, but the truth is that with few exceptions, most of them will market for anyone with a dollar. And it's not confined to young lawyers. BigLaw is so desperate to market themselves that they'll talk to a 6-month no-longer-practicing-lawyer because he claims to be able to teach them how to be rainmakers by using social media. He never made rain as a lawyer, but no one seems to care. It's all about the sales job, right, counsel? This is why the number one group of people scammed by these Nigerian emails - are lawyers. We're so desperate for money we'll listen to anyone who mentions the word.

The rush to the marketing table is like the running of the bulls. Run fast, or die, they say.

I don't run very fast, and I don't see any bulls behind me. I've taken some great advice over the years, and kept my eye on the goal of building a practice of which I could be proud, regardless of what others think.

Today, though, building a practice is nothing more than collecting dollars. Sure, there are those who want to become respected advocates of the Bar. But so many are merely running in the direction of anyone who will tell them how to game the internet and nowhere else. When I tell young lawyers to join their local Rotary, sponsor charity events, go out and meet people, I can hear the "yeah, sure, how will that affect my internet presence?"

Where have all the lawyers gone? Where are the new, up and coming lawyers that laugh at the social media consultants, that envision a practice of clients and cases and research and advocacy, respect of their peers, authorship of articles on key legal issues, speaking engagements at real legal conferences? Where have all the lawyers gone who are less interested in collecting those clients looking for lawyers on the internet, and more interested in collecting clients looking for good lawyers through referrals? Are they on listservs speaking their mind about the state of the profession, or are they more concerned about whether some other lawyer may call them a "meanie?"

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

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Future Of The Legal Profession: How To Ethically Lie About Your Fake Office

So much discussion about the future of the legal profession is running around the internet these days that you may begin to think that the people talking about it actually know what they are talking about. Look a bit closer and you will see that the so called "future" is being described by those who are tired of practicing, addicted to tech, have no real substantive practice to speak of, and generally make up things to bolster their self-fulfilling prophecies. In essence, those that talk about the future of the legal profession these days are mainly spewing their vision of the profession. A vision that many "real" lawyers don't share.

One vision I do share with these "future of the legal profession" idiots, is that the future includes more acceptable lying. You know, pretending you have a certain amount of experience, or credentials, or yes, even a certain type of office.

Which brings me to the topic at hand.

Why do some lawyers put photos of their office building on their website? I don't have a picture of my office building on my website. Maybe I should. Maybe one day I will. But when I do, it will be a picture of the office building where I have an office, with a desk, and people working for me and with me. It will not be a picture of the building in which some timeshare company owns a floor and of the address I own for $100 a month.

Which leads me to the answer to my own question. There are lawyers who put a picture of the building in which their "office" is located in order to create an impression that they in fact, have an office there. When in fact, I, as well as many other lawyers know (not potential clients though) that in each city there are Class A office buildings that have a floor rented by a "Regus" type company that in turn, provides fee-for-service office solutions for lawyers and other businesses.

A lawyer can have merely the address to receive mail, or someone answering a dedicated phone line, or conference room time, office time, and yes, lawyers can actually rent offices and work there like in any other place. But for the most part, in this "future of the legal profession," lawyers buy the address and pretend (lie) that this is actually where they practice.

Cool, huh?

Welcome to the future.

.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

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Future Of Law: Better, Faster, Cheaper - Pick Which One You Want

If you practice law, go to law school, or just know that lawyers exist, I trust by now you've read the story of Joseph Rakofsky's representation in a murder case.

New details have surfaced.

He solicited himself for the case. If you don't know, lawyers can advertise under stringent rules, but are not permitted to solicit. They do, every day, but it's a violation of the ethics rules.

Rakofsky also quoted a fee 50-75% less of what the client was hearing from other lawyers. Nothing unethical about that, unless you are quoting the fee just to get the case, and refrain from telling the client that a. you've never handled a murder case, and b. you've never tried a case.

This is how some inexperienced lawyers get cases today - cut price and say as little as possible about your lack of experience.

Take for example one of the cornerstones of today's marketing lawyer - if you've only been out a few years, don't put your graduation date from law school or college on your website. (Stop laughing, internet marketers - yeah, we all know it's one of your "secrets.")

Sunday night a group of people not asked to speak at the ABA Tech Show in Chicago this week, had their own pre-tech show conference - Ignite Law. This conference selected 12 people, some practicing lawyers, to discuss the future of law - each speaker getting 6 minutes.

Of course, how a lawyer parading as an experienced criminal defense lawyer used tech and social media to create a false image of his experience and qualifications, was discussed profusely.

Actually, no it wasn't.

The marketers and tech types are still on an embargo on that topic. Not a word.

All the speakers did mention the New York Times piece by exonerated convict John Thompson that went viral yesterday where he wonders if the future of law will bring prosecutors to justice.

Actually, none of them mentioned that, and no one at tech show will mention that this week. As some hysterical attendee said last year "it's tech show, tech show, it's about tech, tech tech tech," etc...

If you're wondering what the future of law holds for all of us according to the speakers at Ignite Law:

As the ABA Journal summed it up:

Technology will push bar regulators to ease jurisdictional restrictions. More than 50 percent of clients will rely on consumer review websites like Yelp to find a lawyer. And iPads and other smart tablets will be as ubiquitous in firms and courtrooms as microwave ovens are in homes.

Lawyer Jay Shepherd is so certain the billable hour will be dead in 8 years that he announced to the sold-out crowd he is closing his practice to focus on a new venture, PREFIX, which teaches lawyers how to value and price knowledge and judgment.

Lawyer Jim Calloway probably assured himself he wont be invited back when he called for a return to old-school communication including handwritten thank-you notes and smartphone-free face time as two of the best ways to build client trust in the future.

His catchphrase 'What Would Grandma Do?' drew laughs.

Ha ha h......heh..h...

I wasn't invited to speak at Ignite Law, mainly because I didn't submit an audition package and beg people on twitter to vote for me, but if I did, and was selected, I would have said something like this:

The future of law will require lawyers to keep confidences of clients. It will require that lawyers understand legal issues and figure out ways to resolve client problems. There will be so many lawyers in the profession for the sole purpose of collecting clients through internet marketing, that it will be the rare lawyer who agrees to meet in a room with a client where the only technology is a glass to hold some water, a pen, some paper, and a professional interested in a face to face opportunity to discuss an important issue with a person needing legal services.

Witnesses will be called into courtrooms to testify about what your clients did, and you will be required to understand how to question them without the use of something with an on/off switch. You will also be required to explain your legal position through an analysis of the case law you obtained virtually or via the fax machine connected to the radio in your wireless car.

Because everyone will have a tablet-type device and ability to video conference with people through their sunglasses, the successful lawyer will be the one who gains a reputation for understanding how the law applies to a particular client's issue, and who has the ability to advocate a position through the connection of facts to current law.

I don't know what the future of the legal profession will entail, as I'm just a practitioner, not a palm reader. Like anything else, there will be a movement towards better, faster, cheaper.

Tech and social media marketing can definitely help you be two of those things.

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

Monday, April 4, 2011

Unethical Marketing Stings Two Criminal Defense Lawyers

But I am against this type of public humiliation, or “cyberbullying” as someone has termed it.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Jamison Koehler, January 31, 2010, on his blog.

Greenfield writes that it has been painful for him to “scan the internet and see websites of attorneys claiming to be the best in their field when no one has ever heard of them”: “Apparently, these attorneys put their resources into paying search engines so that their websites pop up first rather than into representing their clients or perfecting their skills as an attorney. This is a sad commentary on the legal profession.”

Again, maybe so. I have complained myself about the endless spam comments I receive on this blog and the endless phone calls from hucksters trying to sign me up for a search engine optimization program.

At the same time, I think this trend is inevitable. Policing the blawgosphere and calling out specific lawyers on what are still debatable ethical issues seems to me, as I wrote on Greenfield’s site, paternalistic and futile.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Jamison Koehler, January 31, 2010, on his blog.

Yes, frequent readers of this blog will notice that with just a few minutes on Google, I've found some not-so-true facts (lies) about some of the lawyers trolling the internet looking to get paid to tell you how to be rich and successful. I've also written about the vast number of lawyers (not only clients) out there that know nothing about this. They happily read the qualifications of the marketing expert, or lawyer, some of which are true, and prepare to be taught to make money as a lawyer, or be represented.

The responses are all the same: from "Wow, I didn't know that, thanks for telling me," to "who cares?" and as always, from fellow criminal defense lawyer Jamison Koehler, "we're smart enough to figure this out."

Take for example his response to a post about "real lawyers"

I am no big fan of all the hucksters out there trying to sell products or services we don’t need. But we are adults. We are savvy. We can figure out for ourselves what works and what doesn’t.

Yes, we're all smart enough, even the ones who aren't smart enough.

But oh how things change...

I have always been somewhat suspicious of reports in the criminal law blogosphere (author's note: by Brian Tannebaum, Scott Greenfield, and Mark Bennett, but I won't mention them specifically because they may call me out for hypocrisy), about lawyers who misrepresent their credentials or who otherwise fail to meet the needs of their clients. Maybe I am naïve (author's note: "maybe?"), but I have questioned how frequently this actually occurs (author's note: hourly). And just as anything I might say could be viewed as suspect (author's note: no, never), I have been struck by the sanctimonious and self-serving nature of these complaints (author's note: it is not sanctimonious and self-serving to call out the liars in our profession, it is sanctimonious and self-serving to defend them against lawyers who are trying to rid them from the profession), particularly when coming from a less experienced lawyer such as myself. Implicit in every such complaint is the suggestion that the blogger doing the complaining would never commit such a sin himself.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Jamison Koehler, on his blog, 2 days ago.

Koehler's post comes from his learning that (Santa Claus doesn't exist) a fellow criminal defense lawyer totally lied about his background, got retained on a murder case, and had never before tried a case, despite advertising on his website that he “specializes” in criminal law.

Damn, wonder (which marketer) advised him to do that? "No one will ever find out, I can hear them telling the young lawyer.

Scott Greenfield, one of the bloggers Koehler has criticized in the past for writing about the unethical, picks up the story with what we know is the mantra of the marketers:

Don't sweat the details. Don' be afraid to make yourself appear to be something, many things, you're not. And don't ever turn away a client, no matter what the case or what your qualifications to handle the case. It's all about making money, and anything a young lawyer has to do to make money is fair game. That's how things work in the law these days.

In the best summary of the sewer that is the internet for legal marketing today, Greenfield concludes:

Many, from the social media gurus to the legal marketers to the young lawyers whining about their need for money, willingly embrace the idea that the internet is free from the constraints of truth and ethics that apply in the real world, that it's a truth free zone. If the internet can make you, it can break you as well.


So I'm sorry Jamison, that it took this for you to realize that we here who write about this often, are not just making shit up.

It's real, it's pervasive, and I'm happy to see one of our own go down while we welcome another to the "policing" blawgosophere.

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

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What You're Missing If You're Not At LMA11

It's like Woodstock out there. Yes friends, all the legal marketers are making their way to the 2011 Legal Marketing Association's (LMA) 2011 Conference. And they're giddy. The excitement is dripping down laptop (sorry, iPad) screens everywhere. Posts are being written telling people how to walk and talk, planes are landing, and the tweets announcing the arrivals of social media marketers are met with smiling-from-ear-to-ear-faces on the other end, waiting to give big hugs.

As usual, most of the internet stars are headed to yet another conference, not to speak, but to hang out. They have their strategy, the managing partners they're going to try to meet and sell their services to, hoping that none of the real lawyers in attendance ask them about their fraudulent credentials.

Now the LMA conference has some interesting topics, and interesting ways of describing them, like:

Step by step processes to take advantage of social media in a compelling and meaningful way,

(Translated: how to link to your law firm 27 different ways over and over again while convincing yourself it's compelling and meaningful) and,

Examining the tools available to help you streamline your use of social media and disseminate the same information to different media outlets

(Translated: how to spam twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn at the same time with the same crap while trying to look credible.)

Then the big downer that no marketer wants to talk about:

Getting to grips with the legal risks associated with the use of social media
◦Ethical considerations and rules of conduct when using social media platforms
◦Making social media work for you while staying compliant with the bar rules

Ut oh.

Then there's this quick title:

Examining the strategy and elements of a winning client-focused pitch process. By being able to effectively influence the pitch approach, you can change partner behavior for both the written submission and the ‘live’ presentation in order to put the right client-centric strategy, staffing and pricing forward to increase your odds of winning in an increasingly competitive market.

(Translated: how to teach BigLaw stiffs with no social skills how to get clients.)

And there's: Leveraging client feedback as an organizational development strategy to increase your firm’s performance.

(Translated: How to get rid of complaining clients and make sure they keep their mouth shut.)

Then there's: Discerning the strategic priorities of your firm’s formal and informal leaders in order to be most effective with your key clients.

(Translated: Don't let Jim near the clients.)

Because the topic of just create a .pdf brochure that can be edited was too complicated, we have this:

Streamlining your submission process with project management strategies to ease the burden of multiple submissions when you have limited resources at your disposal.

Of course this is the topic I would love to be there for:

Determining whether to hire experts outside your firm and choosing a qualified professional development consultant.

A qualified professional development consultant... Just remember people of LMA, Google can be a wonderful resource. So can pointed questions. Plenty of people are passionate about legal marketing, because there's money in that there field. Qualified professionals aren't loitering at conferences hoping to meet you. The ones you meet at conferences, with no role there but to network, aren't qualified professionals, they just want you to think they are.

Have fun.

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

New York Times: We Just Got Fooled Again

Fool me once, shame on....well, you know the phrase.

Those in the blogosphere know all too well the prank played on the New York Times last April Fools Day.

No way it could happen again?

No. Way.


Read about it here.


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