Sunday, October 30, 2011

Would You Want Your Kids To Be Lawyers?

This weekend, in two separate conversations (not twitter conversations, actual face to face with food and drink conversations), two different lawyers told me without solicitation, that they would not want their kids to be lawyers.

One is a 30-year lawyer-turned-coach who still practices part-time, and the other is one of the most successful personal injury lawyers around, 17 years in to practice.

The coach said that debt and the job prospects were paramount in his thinking, while the successful PI lawyer said it was due to the lack of professionalism he has to deal with on a daily basis.

So from two different types of lawyers, the feeling seems to be that lawyers, and the money, suck.

I would encourage my kids to become lawyers, but only if they truly wanted to practice law, to be "real" lawyers, to be professionals dedicated to representing clients. These could be indigent clients facing jail, corporate clients looking to screw the general public, or people looking to get divorced. Regardless of the source of the passion, as long as they were going it to it for the right reasons - to represent clients as advocated and counselors, I'm all for it.

I sense the Starbucks crowd, the e-lawyering crowd, and those who believe their law schools are the devil for forcing them to go to law school based on the promise of wealth and fame, are not going to encourage their kids to go to law school. I also trust those who didn't find law as easy and fun as they thought will also hope their kids do something else.

But I'm interested in the discussion.

So if you're going to offer your thoughts (and I'll allow the anonymous cowards in on this one as I'm about to change that policy) please at least tell me how long you've been in practice and what it is you do.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. 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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

If Joseph Rakofsky Had A Mentor, And Other Wild Ideas

Scott Greenfield described it with clarity this morning:

In the beginning, this was a matter of a young lawyer who did what so many others would have done, reached beyond himself for the dollar at the expense of a murder defendant, Dontrell Deaner. At this point, most have forgotten that this was about saving the Dontrell Deaners, the defendants entitled to competent counsel because their lives depended on it. Instead, they got puffery.

But it now appears that Joseph Rakofsky isn't like the other young lawyers who want to be something they're not. Most of them would have learned something from the universal condemnation. Most would have grasped their horrible mistake quickly. A few would have taken longer, but eventually come to the harsh realization that they blew any chance at redemption.

This one, however, has enjoyed no epiphany. This one will fight to the death. He will add, and redo, and redouble, and fight. This isn't tenacity, an excellent trait in a lawyer. This isn't mere stupidity. This is pathologic obsession.

Mark Bennett had some comments on young Joseph's predicted assault on the only lawyer who would add his name to 2011's version of the Titanic:

By filing suit for his pal Rakofsky, Borzouye—whether he knew it or not—put his professional reputation and his bank account on the line along with his precious time. It wasn’t much of a favor to Rakofsky—a greater mitzvah would have been to dissuade Rakofsky from filing suit at all (I don’t know if he tried, but see “First,” above)—but it is not entirely out-of-line for a lawyer, when a friend is intent on destroying himself in court, to come along for the ride to try to minimize the damage.

Oh Joseph, I've seen this too often. I haven't seen it from lawyers in their infancy, but from lawyers well in to their careers who have decided that the world is against them, that attacking anyone with a heartbeat and voice will lead to some type of victory, somewhere.

It never ends well.

The lawyers I speak of are disbarred. The ones who felt attacked, and went on the attack, never knowing when to stop attacking, and continuing after the last interested person turned away - the last interested person besides a Bar prosecutor.

I think of Charlie Sheen.

Charlie had a problem, he took that problem and attacked anyone who spoke of the problem. He went on the attack, and made himself the story.

He lost his job, his kids, some friends, the respect of those who once respected him, and then all of a sudden, it all stopped.

Then it got quiet. Then we heard the sincere apologies, the evidence that he had moved on and was looking for a life away from the past.

It worked.

So how did it happen?

I have to think someone put their hand on Charlie's shoulder and said "stop."


"You're not 'winning,' you're losing, badly."

While the story of Sheen's demise fades, the talk of his new life becomes the lesson for many. "Hey, look at Charlie Sheen," will be the phrase spoken to those who think they can't get out of their own way.

Which brings me back to Joseph Rakofsky.

Young Joseph could have been a popular speaker on the young lawyer circuit. I said from the beginning of his failed life as a plaintiff that had he taken his experience and turned it in to a teaching lesson - many of the young (marketing) lawyers may have learned something. Had young Joseph stood up and said "don't do what I did, don't take on a case unprepared, don't over-market yourself, don't be who you are not for the sake of building a practice," he would have been a strong voice in the "I speak from experience" camp.

Instead, he amended his complaint.

And so I wonder where is Joseph Rakofsky's mentor? Does he have one? Has he had some who he's now cast away? Are you one of them thinking "I tried to talk to him, but he knew better?"

Joseph Rakofsky claims he can't sleep, he's lost business, his life is the result of "internet mobbing."

But the last time I heard Joseph Rakofsky's name before yesterday, before he said "I'm back," was, well, I don't remember.

Maybe Joseph Rakofsky has a mentor. Maybe young Joseph is a bad mentee. Maybe his short time as a lawyer has taught him that becoming the poster boy for circus-type litigation is a road to success.

Young Joseph is on his way to nowhere. He doesn't know that, he'll never agree with that, but then again, I wonder if anyone is telling him that.

Nothing he is doing will accomplish anything positive in his life, or career.

But I'm not the one to tell him that.

Maybe someone else knows better.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. 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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Saw The Future Of Law, And It's Not What Any Of You Morons Are Talking About On The Internet

I spent the day at my law school alma mater yesterday speaking to students about, well, about a lot of things. They asked questions, I asked questions, They talked about their future, and I spoke of my past.

I've also been sitting back, watching the failed lawyers try and convince the greater legal community via blogs, articles and quotes at happy conferences that the future of law is what they deem it to be. The drum beats louder every day. It's no longer that e-lawyering is part of the future, we are now being told if we are not part of the sit-at-home-and-sell-legal-services- world, we will not be a part of this perceived future. Google + is a total complete failure, but to those who have nothing to talk about, it's the future. Lawyers are shutting down their practice because they have determined they have the secrets to running law firms, and rather than practice law, they are going to sell you their secrets to success.



There is no "future of law."


Not a single student asked about building a practice by keyboard and monitor from mommy's basement. Not a single student spoke about twitter, dropbox, or anything with .com at the end.

They spoke about offices, firms, clients, courtrooms, "meaningful" practices," and passion.

They don't know you "future of law" people are full of crap yet, because they haven't met you, you and your self-fulfilling prophecies that because you are un-interested in going to an office and having face to face communication with clients, everyone else one day will be as well.

It's OK if you have decided that your future of law is going to be in pajamas, or going from Starbucks to Starbucks, or trying to tell successful lawyers that (for a fee) you have all the answers. Most of us know better. Most of us know that it's merely your reality, your inability to practice law like lawyers - in the presence of clients, in a suit, in a courtroom or conference room. You are merely tired, or broke, or getting to the point of being broke, and trying to convince the world that lawyers who practice "normal" law are going to die off soon.

Your future of law is law by tech and teaching "secrets" that are about as secret as your failure. That's great, for you.

But it's not the future.

Because as I know, and as I heard yesterday, your future is just that.


Non-anonymous comments welcome. 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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A New Blogger The Marketers And Starbucks Lawyers Missed

According to those worshipped on the internet these days, lawyers only blog for profit, and working in an office is a sure fire road to nowhere. We are in a marketing sewer and all lawyers are to follow the lawyer in front of them down to the pile of shit called the internet, typiing away for the sole purpose of business, and working from their dining room table when Starbucks kicks them out.

Lawyer Joe Scura must have been out the day the unemployed former nothing lawyers were busy scamming other lawyers young and old in to thinking that working alone from home and blogging for clients was the only way to riches and fame.

His website and blog violate about every marketing rule that exists.

Fasten your seatbelt marketing scum - here's Joe out of the box on his website:

Joe Scura opened his first law office in 2009

2009! You idiot! Rule number 1 - never, NEVER say how long you've been out unless it's more than 5 years.

What the marketers would have told Joe was to start with:

Joe Scura is an experienced criminal defense lawyer that will fight for your rights for a reasonable fee.

The Virtual Office crew (who of late have insisted this is the future of law) drops out of Joe's world at the second sentence, where he says:

This office is devoted to providing exceptional representation to real people faced with real legal problems

Then there's his first blog post:

Two Years In Solo Practice

There you go again Joe, being all honest and transparent and just violating every rule of sleezy marketers.

A better title would have been: My Advice To Young Lawyers After Years In Private Practice (2 is plural after all.)

Joe continunes with the first reason he writes this post:

I would like potential clients to know who I am and where I’m coming from.

Oh man Joe, you want them to know the truth about you? Really?

Here's more bad news: Joe went to law school not to make money, but: with the goal of becoming a criminal defense attorney

And while I want you to go to Joe's blog and give him the many hits he obviously doesn't care about, here's a clip of what to expect (so the "how to make money fast like today as a lawyer" crowd doesn't waste their time.)

If I could stress one point here, it would be “just work”. You could spend hours in your office tweaking your website, tweeting, answering questions on AVVO, (all of which I’ve done btw) but if you want to be a young solo the most productive thing you can do to build your practice is develop skills as an attorney and do good work

Welcome aboard Joe, and congratulations on your first "Like," from me.

h/t: Mark Bennett

Non-anonymous comments welcome. 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

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Federal Judge Smacks Florida Bar On Advertising Rules

This stuff makes me happy, because I think the Florida Bar has become more of a consumer protection agency, than an association of lawyers. It also makes me happy because I have argued that the advertising rules should be as follows: "Read rule 4-8.4," (no false, misleading, deceptive behavior.)

But the Florida Bar continues to micro manage lawyer advertising, protecting Aunt Sadie from some errant letter about a legal matter.

So now Jacksonville federal judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled some of the advertising rules unconstitutional.

Lawyer William Harrell wanted to use the slogan "Don't Settle for Less Than You Deserve," but that's a no no.

Judge Howard held the rules to be "vague."

They're not vague, they're ridiculous.

Public Citizen brought the lawsuit, and in critizing the advertising rules, made the point as to why they exist: "The rules have made it extremely difficult for lawyers in Florida to effectively reach injured consumers in need of representation," said Greg Beck.

That's right, the goal is to keep us away, because consumers don't want to hear from us.

But the Bar has to have evidence, and facts, and they didn't:

The Bar does not articulate any basis for believing that “Don’t settle for less
than you deserve” could potentially mislead the public or erode the public’s confidence in the legal profession. See Mason, 208 F.3d at 958 (“The Bar has the burden in this case of producing concrete evidence that Mason’s use of the words ‘AV Rated, the Highest Rating’ threatened to mislead the public.”). Moreover, the Bar presents no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that the phrase has misled the public or tarnished the reputation of the legal profession in the public’s eyes. Mason, 208 F.3d at 957. Instead, the Bar generally cites to data which purportedly shows that television advertising “lowers the public’s respect for the fairness and integrity of the legal system and adversely affects the system.”

The Florida Bar has since amended the advertising rules, but they're still ridiculous, cumbersome, and subject to all kinds of interpretation that leaves lawyers wondering whether it's worth advertising at all.

(Editor's Note: I hate most lawyer advertising but defend a lawyer's right to advertise - I"m kind of a hyporite that way.)

Non-anonymous comments welcome. 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, October 3, 2011

Are There Any (Other) Impressive, Creative Law Students Out There?

Because Im bad for business, I've only been invited to a few, well, two, social media/tech conferences to talk about the sewer that lawyers have made of the the internet.

My other speaking engagements are limited to boring conferences, like talking to real lawyers who have real practices and actually believe that ethics play a part in marketing and law, and law students who are looking to not go afoul of the Bar Rules.

So last week I was invited to address an early morning Professional Responsibility class at a local law school. They chuckled, they asked questions, some stayed after to ask more questions, but most played on their laptops (some followed me on twitter as I was saying the most important things they've ever heard- so I thought), and for the most part, they got up and left and went to their next class or took a nap or something.

One student sent me an email. She wanted to say thanks but was admittedly too busy to stay after for that purpose. Apparently staying after class to commiserate with some old relic from the 90's was less important than her own studies, which I appreciated.

In her email, she told me about a recent presentation she gave to a local Bar Association (the 4th largest in the country) on ethics in advertising and the newly proposed Florida Bar Rules.

No, I'm not kidding. Apparently the law school has some clinical internship program where law students can do these types of things. Apparently, she was interested in this topic.

I asked her to send me the presentation. It was pretty impressive. Actually, it was first-rate kind of stuff. We'll talk more about it when I take her to lunch in a couple weeks. (Yes, there was a small lesson in that paragraph.)

So this got me thinking, besides all the law students we read about in the blawgosphere who are suing their law school for forcing them to attend based on promises of jobs, or whining about why lawyers don't see how incredibly epic and awesome they are, what the other ones doing?

That's my question.

Is this law student I met an anomoly? Are there others out there that ignore the economy, the crowd of crybabies, and the social media hacks that promise them wealth and fame by keyboard and instead have engaged in interesting projects that may result in a lawyer out there actually taking interest?

Take a minute from begging people to "Like" your Facebook Fan Page and let me know.

I'm interested. Really.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. 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