Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Professor Jeff Jarvis, The Joke

"Jeff Jarvis, a national leader in the development of online news, blogging, the investigation of new business models for news, and the teaching of entrepreneurial journalism, writes an influential blog, He is author of the books What Would Google Do? and Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live as well as the e-book Gutenberg the Geek."

And like those who have tied themselves to the internet for their career, I've never heard of him outside the internet. I never heard of him before I had a twitter account.

I do know the fake Professor Jeff Jarvis. He's someone who has a twitter account and tweets out the most ridiculous, funny exaggerations about the role of the internet in our lives. Stuff like this:

and this:

and this:

He takes the stupid phrases of the internet-centric and shows us the sillyness of it all.

This is Professor Jeff Jarvis.

This is the fake Professor Jeff Jarvis.

Prof. Jeff Jarvis

Can you tell the difference?

Well yesterday Esquire did a satire piece (now removed as you'll read below) on the good Professor.

The Real Professor Jeff Jarvis got mad. He had enough. He had enough, again, according to his whiny pathetic piece that contains this aw poor baby passage:

It was personally upsetting. My anxiety was pushing my heart back into afib for the first time in a few years. Oh, joy, this bozo is going to send me to the hospital. Enough.

No, really. that's in the piece, read it. He's had it. There will be no SNL skit on Professor Jeff Jarvis, mainly because no one knows who he is, and if they did, SNL wouldn't want the headache of this crybaby who claims to be teaching, of all things, journalism.

Thankfully no journalists will ever have to deal with satire. I mean, could you imagine if there were satire videos of someone like, let's say CNN's Wolf Blitzer all over the internet?

There is no bigger honor than making good fun of someone. It's called parody. It's called satire. Every politician, movie star, musician, and famous person prays that they will appear ridiculous and made fun of on Saturday Night Live or elsewhere. When I say "good fun," I mean harmless jokes.

When you read Professor Jeff Jarvis' whiny retort to the satire on Esquire, you will shake your head. If you don't, well, hello Professor Jeff Jarvis.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering Share/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Florida Court: False Online Review Of Lawyer = Libel

A Florida lawyer got some big damages in a libel case, and yesterday the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld them, with a great opinion.

The case is Copia Blake and Peter Birzon v.Ann-Marie Giustibelli, P.A., and Ann-Marie Giustibelli,individually.

The lawyer sued for damages due to false online reviews. After briefs were filed, one of the appellants filed a notice withdrawing the appeal. The other did not. The court began their opinion by stating that "even if she had, we would not have dismissed the appeal."

Usually not a good sign for the appellant.

The court noted that "one issue Blake and Birzon raised involves the application of free speech protections to reviews of professional services posted on the internet."

We lawyers call those "Yelp" or "Avvo" reviews.

The court understands this is an issue in the legal profession:

"We affirm in all respects, but this issue merits discussion as it presents a scenario that will likely recur, and the public will benefit from an opinion on the matter."

The facts?

Giustibelli represented Blake in a divorce case against Birzon. Things deteriorated between Giustibelli and Blake, so Blake (and as the court noted "oddly, Birzon as well,") posted defamatory reviews of Giustibelli.

Giustibelli sued for libel, as well as breach of contract.

Some of the offending statements:

"She misrepresented her fees with regards to the contract I initially signed. The contract she submitted to the courts for her fees were 4 times her original quote and pages of the original had been exchanged to support her claims..."

"No integrity. Will say one thing and do another. Her fees outweigh the truth."

"Altered her charges to 4 times the original quote with no explanation."

The client and her husband admitted they posted the reviews and "both admitted at trial that Giustibelli had not charged Blake four times more than what was quoted in the agreement.

Result: Giustibelli won, and got $350,000 in punitive damages.

Blake and Birzon claim "that their internet reviews constituted statements of opinion and thus were protected by the First Amendment and not actionable as defamation."

The court held that:

"...all the reviews contained allegations that Giustibelli lied to Blake regarding the attorney’s fee. Two of the reviews contained the allegation that Giustibelli falsified a contract. These are factual allegations, and the evidence showed they were false."

The court also noted that the argument "that libel per se no longer exists" due to the Gertz case in the United States Supreme Court, doesn't apply as after Gertz, "the Florida Supreme Court recognized that, with respect to a libel action against the media, it is no longer accurate to say that ‘“[w]ords amounting to a libel per se necessarily import damage and malice in legal contemplation, so these elements need not be pleaded or proved, as they are conclusively presumed as a matter of law.’”

What the court noted about this argument was that the lawyer here, is not a media defendant, so libel per se still applies.

Obviously this case applies to Florida Lawyers (and any other state that has the same laws on libel). There were reviews that were verified, and verified to be false. Most of the time you have anonymous reviews that are nothing more than protected opinion and all you can do is cry about it.

Congratulations to Giustibelli. Those were some expensive false online reviews.

 Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last Minute Wine Gifts TO AVOID For The Wine Lover

I've lost count of the wine-gifts-for-the-wine-lover posts in the last few weeks. Seems as if there's a perception that people who love wine, love nothing else.

First piece of advice, that's not true. We like books, (i.e., Amazon gift cards), we like music, (i.e. iTunes gift cards), and some of us drink other things (i.e. Starbucks gift cards.)

But if you're focused on wine stuff, and desperate for a gift, let me help you with things that I've seen in some of these posts, that you should avoid.

1. This Wine Thermometer

Let's talk for a minute. Let's say your giftee is a serious wine drinker. I promise you this will be in a drawer, forever. The following scene will never occur: "Hey honey, I'm going to open this great Cabernet. Wait, it seems like it may not be 57 degrees, could be 54 degrees, let me check, where's that thing Joe got us?"

Serious wine drinkers use their hand to determine the temperature of wine. Novices couldn't care less.

2. Any wine club

I've seen these ads for "12 bottles of wine for $99," or "6 for $60."

Why do you think those wines are under $9 and sold through newspapers and hotels and other touristy sounding names like "The California Wine Club?"

It's because they suck. And the wines you will be sending your wine loving friend every month will suck as well.

It's because no one else will sell those wines. No, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Hilton Hotels, don't spend their time putting together great wines for their wine clubs. They are for people who think they are getting a deal for under $100. Avoid them.

3. Bottle Stoppers

Take a wild guess how many bottle stoppers I have. Wait, don't do that. Take a guess how many ziploc bags of bottle stoppers I have? We, the wine drinkers of the world, have enough bottle stoppers, and we never use them.

The only exception, are ones you bought from some artist in some foreign country, or that are festive, or have something on them that are unique - like a favorite sports team football helmet or monogram.

4. This Bike Wine Rack

We're wine drinkers, not alcoholics (hopefully). We ride bikes for the same reason you do, because we want to exercise, because we want to be healthy, because we drank too much wine last night. We don't need to carry a bottle everywhere we go, or ride.

5. Merlot Infused Coffee

So let me see if I have this correct, after a night of drinking wine, we want to wake up - and instead of some Hazelnut Cinnamon Coffee - we'd like something hot and caffeinated that tastes like wine?

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And LawyeringShare/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Here's Your Thanksgiving Wine Post

This post is written for the following two types of people:

1. You are in a panic about what wine in your house to serve tonight at Thanksgiving; or

2. You are in a panic about what wine to serve tonight at Thanksgiving and you're going out today, on Thanksgiving, to buy the wine.

First, let's be honest.

No one gives a shit.

The most important thing to do before panicking about wine is to close your eyes.


Now think about your guests.

Aunt Judy from Ohio? She's just going to be disappointed that there's no jug wine.

Uncle Joe, who has promised not to do his "I'm telling you, Trump's going to build that wall and kill ISIS for us," no matter what he drinks, he's going to ask "this a cabernet?"

Your guest list is not the sommeliers of your local restaurants. Scroll Facebook for a minute, no 12 seconds, and you'll see pies, sides, and the "I'M FRYING THAT BITCH" claims.

It's about the food, and trying to have a discussion with people that help you understand why things are the way they are. (No, ISIS is not walking around in UPS uniforms they bought on Ebay.)

So I'll make it simple.

The problem with pairing wine with Thanksgiving is 1. too many foods with various flavors, and 2. too many people who normally don't drink wine or if they do, they drink garbage.

So relax.

Thanksgiving is not a wine tasting for most, nor will your family be excited that the wine you served "costs $80 a bottle." They'll want to run out and buy that $15 wine they sucked down all night while telling you how much they love the new Adele album. "You know she's only 25, that's why she called her album '25.'" "No, she's 27." "Well I just love that 'Hello.' You sure she's not 25?" "No, she was born in 1988, she's 27." "OK, can I have some more of this wine?"

Here's what not to serve:

1. That heavy Cabernet you drink with steak. You are not having steak at Thanksgiving.

2. I know, you, are having steak, or lamb, or brisket. In that case, still, don't serve cabernet. I trust you are not having just vegetables with that meat. You still have a variety of foods and need wine that will compliment all of it.

3. Pinotage. I mention this because most people have never, thankfully, had Pinotage. It is a popular wine in South Africa and every time I get the chance to tell people that it is the worst wine I've ever had, I do. It is available in America, is not that expensive, and I've heard that it's been recommended when people go to a wine shop looking for something "different." No matter what you do, never drink Pinotage. The movie "Sideways" missed the opportunity to kill off this horrible wine.

4. Speaking of "Sideways," I wouldn't be serving Merlot either. It's a big, heavy wine.

Here's what I would serve:

1. Whites. Lots of them. I know, that's going to cause people to ask for reds. I'm not saying don't serve reds, I'm saying have a good amount of whites, and not Chardonnay. Serve Riesling (Dr. Loosen's entry level is about $13, Trimbach is very popular, although I don't know why.), Chablis (there are several between $19 and $25 that are very good). Other whites worth trying tonight - Viognier, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc.

2. The primary reds I would serve are Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. (NO, NOT WHITE ZINFANDEL) It's hard to find great ones for $10, but for $20, you're in business. Meomi, made by Caymus, is still the best under $20 Pinot Noir around. It's also a screw top for ease of quickly shutting up annoying guests. For cheap Zinfandel, look for Cline, Ravenswood. If you want to spend around $20 for a Zin, look for Seghesio. If you're feeling charitable and want to spend 30-40, pick one of the many made by Ridge.

3. I would also serve Malbec. For about $20, Catena is a great one. Not cheap enough? Find Alamos. A great value at about $10.

4. The best option if you just can't deal with this, go to the wine shop, give the nice man or woman your budget and what you are looking for, and have some faith.

Me, what am I serving? I haven't decided yet, because it really doesn't matter. Just make sure you tell everyone on Facebook what you are grateful for, and why you hate/love Obama.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And LawyeringShare/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matthew Chappell, Please Read The Rules Of Professional Conduct

"Young" lawyers are an interesting bunch. Bright eyed, full of hopes and dreams, and sometimes one or two have a thought that scares me to death as it evidences their lack of understanding that this is a profession with a code of ethics, not a lead-generating scheme to make money (despite what the marketers want us to believe).

Speaking of schemes, meet Matthew Chappell of Texas. Matthew is a "young lawyer," but not a young man. He's 42. He's a "young" lawyer because he's been practicing less than 5 years. Actually, less than 3.

Seems Matthew, understandably, is a bit impatient. It happens. Sometimes those pesky requirements of  "5 years" minimum as a practicing lawyer gets in the way of being on certain committees, or being appointed to other positions, or in Matthew's case, being eligible to receive work from Fidelity Investments.

Not wanting to wait the extra few years, Matthew sent this email around to his Texas brethren:

I’m going down the list of Board Certified Texas Attorneys to find a solo attorney with 5 or more years of experience to make this offer to. I have 2 years experience, graduating from STCL in 2013.
I have family friends at Fidelity Investments who promise me AT LEAST one new client a week (Estate Planning) if I were able to get on their Preferred Attorney’s List; however, I have to wait a three more stupid years, as Fidelity now requires 5 years of experience to be placed on this list (which wasn’t always the case).
I need to find someone with 5 years who my friends can nominate; the business would be filtered through that someone, but wouldn’t be intrusive AT ALL(I will set up a separate email acct or Google phone number for these clients).
There is absolutely ZERO liability or accountability or responsibility on your part. In exchange, I’m willing to either offer you a share of the clientele or to subsidize your malpractice insurance to bring it up to 2 million/per incident (usually around $3600/yr), which, in addition to the 5 years, is another Fidelity req to be on the list. I already have this type of policy myself.
Let me know if you’d be interested, and I’ll put you in touch with my Fidelity contact who can explain further. Like I said, I’m going down the Board Specialization list of names one by one and sending pretty much the same email. First come, first served.
Thanks, and all best,
Matthew Chappell
Attorney At Law
723 Main Street
Suite 700-07
Houston, Texas 77002
Mark Bennett, not a "young" lawyer, thought it would be beneficial to reach out to Chappell by email:

Not no, but hell no.
 Is there any chance I can, old dog to young pup, persuade you to stop now and not pursue this fraudulent course of action?
 Please let me know before noon.

Now this type of interaction is something "old" lawyers frequently discuss. "Should I reach out to him?" "Is he going to take it well or tell me to screw off?" Most "older" lawyers  just want to say "hey, I don't think that's such a good idea," as Bennett did here.

But Chappell argued with Bennett and refused to retract his unethical proposal. 

So Bennett decided to write about it:

As Bennett correctly analyzed:

So, lawyers. Let’s imagine what happens if you sign on as Matthew Chappell’s nominee, the strawman to whom Fidelity will refer cases, which will then be funneled to Chappell with no involvement from you.
It looks a lot like you’re participating in a fraud against Fidelity. Maybe Chappell’s “Fidelity contact” can explain this in some way that makes it non-fraudulent. Maybe it is fraudulent and Fidelity never finds out. Maybe Fidelity doesn’t care. But suppose that “your” clients start complaining to Fidelity about “your” service. How long do you think it’s going to take them to figure out what your arrangement with Chappell was?
Chappell, not interested in a lesson, doubled down:
And now you’ve committed a handful of torts, including libel by taking my words out of context and tortious interference with business.
Enjoy the lawsuit I’m in the process of filing against you, psycho, arrogant, inferiority complex-ridden moron.
Matthew Chappell
Attorney At Law
723 Main Street
Suite 700-07
Houston, Texas 77002
Now I don't practice in Texas, but I checked, and yep, I was right, they have this Rule that we have in Florida:
Rule 4.01. Truthfulness in Statements to Others 
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid making the lawyer a party to a criminal act or knowingly assisting a fraudulent act perpetrated by a client.
I dunno. Sounds kinda problematic for a lawyer who wants to do what Chappell wants to do.
Chappell of course hasn't filed his lawsuit, but he did send Bennett a certified piece of garbage which has already received a response from Bennett's counsel, Marc Randazza (both here).
Chappell's letter states in part:
Accordingly, please compose a written apology to Mr. Chappell in which you agree to, first, issue a clarification and retraction on your "blogsite", and second, remove the blog that refers to Mr. Chappell and/or any other media associated with Mr. Chappell's name and/or law practice. AGAIN, YOU HAVE TEN DAYS, SIR. 
I'm sure Mark Bennett isn't looking for a calendar to count when those TEN DAYS SIR start, but while we all wait for the failure of a lawsuit that will do nothing but again bring Matthew Chappell's stupid scheme to the forefront of his young legal career, I also have some advice.
Matthew, your proposal is unethical and possibly criminal. You are attempting to use your license in a way that I trust the State Bar, and maybe a prosecutor or two would find objectionable. Don't do it. Don't defend it. You were wrong, and your strategy here of trying to resolve your hurt feelings won't work. When you have been a lawyer 5 years, you can try to get work with Fidelity. Maybe they'll have forgotten about this by then.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering. Share/Save/Bookmark

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How To Navigate The Starbucks Wine List

I know, it's a blog about law and ethics. But it's my blog, and this Starbucks wine thing is more important to you anyway..

I was ready to pounce, hard, when I read that Starbucks is now serving wine. I was ready to laugh, ready to see a list of garbage.

I was shocked to see that the selection is actually pretty impressive, for a coffee shop. I'll go as far as to say it's impressive for one of those restaurants where you wouldn't expect a decent wine list.

I like that all the wines on the list are available by the glass, and by the bottle. I don't like that the online menu has no prices, but I would expect that these wines would sell in the $7-$13 range by the glass. You'll let me know if I'm right. The calorie count is kind of comical, as who really gives a shit how many calories are in wine. If you're on a diet, drink something else.

I don't know if this is the list at all Starbucks serving wine, but here's some specifics for you Starbucks Lawyers that want to impress a potential client:


Pinot Gris (pronounced Pinot Gree) is a underrated, inexpensive white. Erath is a good producer and they also make a good Pinot Noir. So for a white, I would try it. I know you love Prosecco and Chardonnay, but expand your life a bit. It won't kill you.


I generally hate Chardonnay, but Ferrari-Carano is no slouch when it comes to wine. It's good mid-range California wine. I'm surprised to see this in Starbucks, and I predict it is likely a pricey white compared to others on the menu. It's a good splurge though, if you're looking for a decent Sonoma white.


People love this easy-drinking-fruit bomb. I think it sucks. Don't buy it if you're with someone that knows wine.


I was shocked to see this one. This is the best $10 Malbec on the market. I doubt it's $10 a bottle at Starbucks, but it's good,

The other wines I've either not had, or they are mass produced average stuff not worth your money, or my writing. I mentioned Apothic because I hear the excited masses cheering about it.

I trust Starbucks is not going to be using good crystal wine glasses (which yes, does change the taste), but hey, at least maybe you can buy a bottle of wine and have someone write your name on it with a Sharpie.

Enjoy. Don't feel bad about not inviting me, I'm good.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering


Monday, May 4, 2015

The Tech Train Missed The Courtroom Lawyers Stop

The legal profession has given themselves to the tech vendors. Their influx to everything lawyer has been successful, causing anyone in state Bar and Bar association leadership to advocate that we all must "embrace technology or die." It's embarrassing, but there's nothing I can personally do about it. I've tried to argue that relationships and ethics are at the core of better lawyers and lawyering, but that has done as much as cause the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA to decline to have anything to do with my book. My balance-tech-with-other-lawyer-qualities is bad for business.
End of soapbox, for now.
One thing I've noticed about everyone in Bar leadership jumping on the tech train is that it doesn't seem to stop at every courthouse door, effectively leaving lawyers - who do strange things like go to court - out of the loop.
Question to the tech train - if you are going to do the tech vendor's work trying to convince every lawyer they need to "get on board," where is the effort for a national tech policy for lawyers who don't practice from their pajamas, but actually have to put on suits and go to those old fashioned places known as courthouses? You do know those lawyers, the ones not sitting at home selling documents, still exist?
I looked on the internet for the latest on this important issue, and found only one article from 2011.
It begins:
The American public loves the convenience of their wireless communication devices—PDAs and laptops, smart phones and earpiece devices, among others. It’s estimated there are 285 million cell phone users in the United States.
However, the same devices that provide convenience in communications may raise security concerns in federal courts and possibly disrupt proceedings. Courts have responded with a variety of access policies.
Apparently, in response to various courthouse tech policies that drive lawyers crazy:
...the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, in consultation with the Information Technology Committee and the Judicial Security Committee, has issued revised guidance for courts to consider that updates how new technologies could be used and what this may mean for courts."
That's right, to try and resolve this issue, we have the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, working with the Information Technology Committee and the Judicial Security Committee. The quickest way for any good idea to die is to send it to a committee, or three.
So according to this article, back in 2011:
About half of district courts allow the public to bring electronic devices into the court, usually with some restrictions on their use.

Of these districts, one-third prohibit the public from bringing the devices into the courtroom, two-thirds allow the devices in the courtroom but they must be turned off or in silent mode—unless the judge gives permission to use them.

About half of district courts ban all devices in the courthouse, except by judges, clerk’s office and chambers personnel, and probation and pretrial officers. Anyone entering the building is required to either store the device with court security officers, or leave the building to store it elsewhere. 

Some exceptions are permitted with a judge’s permission, e.g., attorneys are usually allowed to bring in laptops and other audio-visual equipment for the presentation of evidence at a court proceeding.
And their recommendation?
...courts are urged to adopt a policy that can be applied on a courthouse- by-courthouse basis because of the unique needs and circumstances of each location. Thus no uniform national policy is recommended. 
So on one side we have the tech train trying to convince lawyers to grab every device they can get their hands on, along with any and all software that can automate the practice of law, and on the other side we have some courthouses that don't allow any of these devices.
An example. In my home federal district (Southern District of Florida) we (now) can bring devices in to court. In the Southern District of New York, you can bring in one device, but if you are not a member of the SDNY Bar, you have to file a motion to bring in your one device. Pick your poison - cell phone, iPad, laptop. I know someone is going to tell me they filed a motion and got to bring in two, but that's not the policy, and the once device policy is strictly enforced. So decide what's more important - keeping in touch with the office, witnesses, opposing counsel, clients, or having your documents available electronically and the ability to type.
And I know, security is at the forefront of any government objection to electronic devices in courthouses. The parade of horribles is always describing pictures being illegally taken of witnesses, or court personnel, or clients getting a hold of phones and making illegal calls, etc.. etc...
But lawyers are being driven to practice electronically, and if they are bringing these devices to court, likely they are doing so to practice law. Lawyers are accountable to their state Bar regardless of where they are practicing. 

If we told every lawyer they could bring one phone, one tablet, and one laptop to court, that wouldn't work? If we promise to be good? 

Can we try? 

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering.