Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End Of Year, Decade, Top, Best Of, Stuff About The Legal Profession

Everyone seems to be writing some end of year, end of decade, Top 10, Best of, my predictions, list. So because the term "follower" is now no longer a criticism, but a part of the fabric of our lives, I'll play along.

This is my end of the year, decade, top, best, things I wanted to predict, comment on, and mention regarding the legal profession.

Seems as if the lawyers among us are eagerly awaiting "next year, "2010," which is better defined as "next week."

Love the optimism and hope, but let's be real. Next year is basically Monday. "Change" was last year's term.

So here we go:

[1] I said, to the "please don't say that" masses, that Big Law had collapsed. It did, and it's not coming back, ever.

The gig's up folks (cue the "you're just jealous" comments). The ponzi scheme that was BigLaw is over. Clients aren't paying for the marble floors, embossed coffee mugs, and research that was done for another client and is just sitting in a file. Clients have become smarter, BigLaw has been exposed as nothing more than a practice of giving a client four lawyers when one, and a paralegal will do.

Sure, big companies will still need lots of lawyers, but they're not paying for the BigLaw lifestyle. Most of BigLaw is buried in debt, and will remain so.

Solos and small firms need to continue to prepare for more business that used to only go to BigLaw.

[2] Bar Associations will continue to step all over themselves trying to control social media, and miserably fail.

Every State Bar that enacts rules regarding Facebook, twitter, and any other social media site, needs to be dragged into federal court and reminded about the Constitution. As much as State Bars want to protect the consumer from us big bad lawyers, they are embarrassing themselves by trying to control every word that comes out of every lawyer's mouth.


Speaking of enough....

[3] All social media "experts" roaming the internet need to be fully vetted by those young or out of work, or desperate for business, lawyers

Social media experts are the new late night infomercial. People claiming to have the "secrets" to using the internet, preying on the unknowing and desperate lawyer that needs business. The private responses to my writing on this topic of "I had no idea," is stunning.

That a lawyer would believe a social media expert gave up a million dollar practice to teach others how to make a million dollars, is beyond pathetic. That a lawyer would believe another lawyer left the profession to teach blogging, is embarrassing. That a lawyer would believe that a first year lawyer is an "experienced corporate lawyer," is sad. That a lawyer wouldn't take 30 seconds and check to see if someone who claims to be an attorney at law, actually is, demeans our profession.

Wake up people. You still have time.

[4] Martindale-Hubbell will continue to fall into irrelevancy.

Martindale was the standard. now they're just trying to remain relevant. is kicking along, but Martindale has spent most of the year defending themselves.

The "AV" rating, once the pristine symbol that lawyers coveted, is still something you are awarded, but now you have to pay $50 for Martindale to display on-line.

Martindale's response my question of "why," was to tell me that I didn't understand, and that the accolade was still free.

So now lawyers that go to are only told a lawyer is "AV" rated if they paid the money. My request to have Martindale state on that many lawyers are "AV" rated but only those who paid the money are listed as "AV," went unanswered.

Martindale is still living in a world where they were the only game in town. That's their loss, and will continue to plague their existence.

[5] Law schools will continue to ignore the need to teach students about real world practice.

I don't even engage in this debate.

I remember being in law school and learning that the law review faculty were trying to get the school to put less effort into the trial team because law review was more important to the future of the students. Why teach students how to try a case when you can teach them to research and write? That is, of course, what BigLaw wants. The enemy of BigLaw is the student that wants to practice law.

Well BigLaw is dead, more students are "going solo" out of law school, or joining small firms that want real lawyers from day one.

But the law schools stand firm, arms folded, ignoring reality.

It won't change.

So that's my 5 things. Not 10. Sorry if I didn't conform.

See you next year.

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, December 24, 2009

The Florida Bar: We'll Tell You Who You Can Be Friends With

With a straight face, The Florida Bar determined at it's December 11th meeting of the Board of Governors, the following in regard to lawyer websites: (AVVO's General Counsel Josh King has his thoughts here).

[1] Lawyers’ use of online social networking sites is subject to the same rules as lawyer Web sites.

[2] Web site visitors (meaning "stupid potential clients that we need to protect from big bad lawyers) must view a disclaimer page that clearly indicates what information will be viewed, including: That page could include whether all results or client testimonials are provided, that the results or testimonials are not necessarily representative of results obtained by the lawyer or all clients’ experience with the lawyer, and that a prospective client’s individual facts and circumstances may differ from the matter(s) in which the results or testimonial are provided.

The disclaimer also has to say that, (this is great) the information behind the disclaimer is not regulated by Bar advertising rules. (As Elmer Fudd would say: be berwey berwey careful).

[3] On the disclaimer page, the viewer has to accept or acknowledge receipt of the information before being given access to pages that follow. (Merry Christmas to web-site designers).

Oh, and lookie here, according to the Florida Bar News Article: The committee acted at the request of Ft. Lauderdale lawyer Peter T. Boyd, who owns PaperStreet Web Design, a company that designs Web sites for other lawyers.

And here's more protection for those idiot potential clients who the Bar wants to protect: The information would be considered “upon request” only if the lawyer sets the Web site up to block (BLOCK!) the area containing past results and testimonials from viewers who have not submitted acknowledgement of viewing the disclaimer page, and the testimonials and/or past results would only be shown upon submission of the agreement after viewing the disclaimer page.

Seriously folks, when will we realize that Bar advertising rules are nothing more than calling potential clients "stupid?"

Now that we're done making sure potential clients are protected from themselves when viewing lawyer websites, lets move to social networking.

Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and all other social networking sites are now subject to Rule 4-7.2, but are not required to be filed for review.

No statements that characterize the quality of legal services being offered; provide information regarding past results; or include testimonials. No, no, no.

Lawyers are not responsible for other party’s postings,(yet), unless the lawyer prompts the posting or uses the other party to circumvent the lawyer advertising rules.

And this is the absolute best:

Invitations to a third party to view or link to the lawyer’s social networking page on an unsolicited basis are considered in-person solicitation and violate Rule 4-7.4(a), unless the third party is the lawyer’s current client, former client, relative, or another lawyer.

Oh, and YouTube postings must comply with Rule 4-7.2, except the requirement they be submitted to the Bar for review.

The Bar did note in asking for a six-month moratorium on enforcement, that "the practical effect is most lawyer Web sites are out of compliance with the new rules.

All of this is utterly ridiculous, and displays a complete lack of understanding of social media. I have no problem with keeping lawyers honest - whether it's in person, or on-line, but the Bar has rules to cover this already:


A lawyer shall not:

(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation....

That's pretty clear to me.

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, December 17, 2009

Do Lawyers Need Protection From Themselves On Twitter?

There's been a bit of a sweeping cleanup of the cess pool that is twitter these days. Those parading as lawyers or "former lawyers" have been called out on their qualifications, and lack thereof. They have quietly removed the lies about their background, while taking advice from "internet defamation lawyers" to "not engage." That's good advice to those who have nothing of any relevance to say.

And yesterday an interesting question was asked from an anonymous commenter on Brian Cuban's Blog: Do lawyers really need that much protection?

Great question.

Do lawyers not do their own research to see the background of the person who wants them to "blog for profit" or if the latest "twitter for lawyers" book was written by a lawyer who is suspended, or if the real estate "lawyer" who wants lawyers to network with her firm was recently convicted and is currently delinquent with the Bar?


These are desperate times.

And desperate lawyers would rather follow people lying about their qualifications as social media experts than real lawyers who may have a tip or two about becoming not a better tweeter, but a better lawyer.

Here's the proof:

Listed below are some of the people who are perceived to be "social media" and "tech" types on twitter that are or were lawyers, or market to lawyers, and their followers:

Grant Griffiths (Disbarred) 6,302 Followers

Adrian Dayton 41,812 Followers.

Sheryl Sisk Schelin (Suspended) 772 Followers.

Stephen Fairley 10,256 Followers.

Now here's a sampling of a few lawyers who actually have clients, may go to court, generally spend their days "practicing law," and their followers on twitter: (This is not an "all-inclusive list of all the great "real" lawyers on twitter, so please stop emailing me).

Eric Turkewitz - Personal Injury Lawyer 291 Followers

Mark Bennett - Criminal Defense Lawyer - 536 Followers

Scott Phillips - General Practice Lawyer - 240 Followers

Ben Kearney - Business Law - 214 Followers

Ken Lammers - Prosecutor - 139 Followers

Gideon - a public defender - 593 Followers

Donzell - another public defender - 223 Followers

Cynthia Henley 277 Followers, and Jackie Carpenter 68 Followers - female criminal defense lawyers (not many of those unfortunately).

And the incomparable Scott Greenfield - criminal defense lawyer - 812 Followers.

And yes, there are the exceptions - some "real" lawyers have thousands of followers. But the difference in general between those who market to lawyers, and those who are lawyers is remarkable.

So this begs the question to the lawyers on twitter - don't any of you aspire to be like any of these lawyers? Practice in areas in which these lawyers practice? Learn something that may make you a better lawyer?

Or are you just looking for the latest IPhone app?

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, December 12, 2009

Are You A Judge's "Friend?" Keep It Off Facebook

The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued this opinion regarding judges on Facebook.

The opinion: Judges may not add lawyers who may appear before the judge as "friends" on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their "friend."


The committee started with this premise: According to Facebook, "your friends on Facebook are the same friends, acquaintances and family members that you communicate with in the real world."

All together now, everyone who's on Facebook - that's a load of crap.

My friends on Facebook are mostly my "Facebook friends." Other than my high school friends and others I know personally, most I've never met. They are fellow lawyers and other interesting, or not, folks.

Every so often those of us on Facebook are standing in line at Starbucks, or attending some cocktail party and someone will say "hey, we're Facebook friends."

But when it comes to judges, in Florida, the committee has determined that "friend" is real, and real unethical: " identify lawyers who may appear in front of the judge as “friends” on the judge's page and to permit those lawyers to identify the judge as a “friend” on their pages.....would violate Canon 2B."

Canon 2B states: "A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge."

The committee recognized that "....judges cannot isolate themselves entirely from the real world and cannot be expected to avoid all friendships outside of their judicial responsibilities....," but "....believes that listing lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a judge's social networking page reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer “friends” are in a special position to influence the judge."

The committee's ruling is sound, but useless. The word "friend" is at the core of the ruling. I wonder, if the term used on Facebook was "person I know," would the committee have an issue?

Wouldn't you as a lawyer want to know that the lawyer is "friends" with the judge? Wouldn't you rather see the connection on Facebook and be able to ask the relevant questions? "Are you real friends, or just Facebook friends?"

Perhaps it's better we don't see the "friendship" on-line. Let's keep it on the golf courses, restaurants, vacation spots and poker games.

That way, no one will know.

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, December 10, 2009

We Lawyers Suck Worse Than Last Year

Trial and Jury Consultant Dennis Elias posted this gem yesterday about how far we lawyers have fallen in the category of ethics & honesty - in just one year.

The article is a fascinating, but not surprising summary of what people think of various professions.

Making the highest gain - police.

Making the largest drops - lawyers, and worse, clergy.

We're better than priests?

Not really, they just dropped more than us this year.

Maybe the clergy have lost our respect due to the various sex scandals, or maybe people think God is not doing enough to help the economy. I don't know.

But let's talk about lawyers.

Lawyers dropped from 18% to 13%. So I guess 87% of the public don't hold lawyers in high esteem.

Here's my suggestion of how we change this:

Do nothing.

Lawyers started losing the respect of the public when advertising became rampant. Lawyers then became no different than retail shops and car dealerships. We've taken the advertising baton and sprinted with it. We are everywhere, and ready to "fight for you," for a "reasonable fee."

Our Bar associations have beaten their heads against the wall - instituting pro bono initiatives and pumping our profession at every opportunity.

It's a waste of time.

Ethics and honesty is individual. We can't turn this entire profession around, and we know it. We've lost any opportunity to return to a time when lawyers were the pillars of society. An individual lawyer may conduct him or herself in a way that garners a high level of respect, but one bad apple, or 87%, spoils the whole bunch in terms of public perception.

People hate lawyers, but may love their lawyer.

In reality, most lawyers are ethical and honest, regardless of the public thinking that's impossible for someone who "makes a lot of money.". But the public has lawyers in their faces every minute of every day, advertising, litigating, stealing, threatening, filing lawsuits they deem frivolous, and yes, occasionally doing something good. It's not juicy to though to report that a lawyer did something good. Pro bono work is the talk of Bar association award luncheons, and maybe a blurb in the Bar newsletter. When doctors go to foreign countries and treat people for free, that's news. When a lawyer represents someone for free, most think it's a requirement for being a "big bad" lawyer.

Bad things make news. When lawyers do bad things, that's what interests people.

We dropped 5% in one year. Why?

It doesn't matter.

My advice, don't lie, cheat, steal, try to give some of your time when you can, and do a good job for your clients.

It's no longer about the profession, it's about you, as a professional.

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, December 3, 2009

A Social Media Guru Comes Partially Clean After Threatening Me With Libel

I've written previously here and here about a social media guru/lawyer who seemed to have some "inaccurate" statements on several biographies on the internet.

When I made a comment directly to him, I'm sorry, to Adrian Dayton, about his seemingly non-existent law practice he "assured me" he is still a practicing lawyer and said I was "treading close to libel."

That's when I took 10 minutes and looked at his background.

The problem, for him, is that he's now removed or changed most, not all, of the "inaccurate" statements about himself on the internet.

So I guess I wasn't making any "false and defamatory statements concerning another?"

No, actually, since his biography on JD Supra no longer says that he has been referred to as an expert by various publications, and he removed that he was involved in more than one $450 million dollar merger, (there's a typo in there Adrian, should say "Adrian is an experienced corporate attorney who was part of A team that...," may want to fix that), and also changed on LinkedIn that his current company actually started months after he initially stated, and changed his status on the New York Bar Website to reflect that he's no longer at the firm where he became an "experienced corporate attorney" in 8 months...

Oh, wait, he didn't do that yet. The New York Bar Website still says that he works at his prior firm. Which begs the question - if Adrian is still a practicing attorney, where is he practicing, what is he practicing, where is his office, what is his office phone, and why does the New York Bar still think he is at his old firm?

Nevermind. I'll stop here.

Some may wonder why I care? Why do I care that someone is clearly not being totally truthful about his background?

Because he's a member of the Bar, and he wants other lawyers to pay him to teach them how to build their practice. But all these lawyers seemingly don't care, don't take the time to investigate, don't want to know as long as they can learn to use twitter to make money.

Just one more question (that will go unanswered) - why is the truth just coming out now?


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


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Florida Bar Amends Website Rules, And Lawyers Freak Out

Lawyers are an interesting bunch. We live in the world of providing information to clients, obtaining information to use in our cases, yet when we "hear things," we simply freak out.

Such as that the Florida Bar has changed the rules regarding websites.

So what do we do when we hear this? Well, I do something unique - a Google search.

I may type in something like "Florida Bar website rules," and come up with this.

Why are you calling me, emailing me, asking me "what does this all mean?"

Do you not have Google? Has your subscription lapsed?

Here's the new rules (I found them here):

Websites will be subject to the general advertising regulations set forth in Rule 4-7.2. Websites will remain exempt from the filing requirement under Rule 4-7.8. The jurisdictional disclosure requirement will no longer be required on the homepage, but will be required to appear on the website. Requirements for direct e-mail will be reinstated: a statement of qualifications will be required and a disclosure if a lawyer other than the one whose name appears in the advertisement will handle the matter will be required. Direct e-mail also will be required to begin the subject line with the statement "legal advertisement." The changes will be effective January 1, 2010.

Here's the secret to keeping you out of trouble:

While you don't have to file the website as an advertisement for review, go ahead and do it anyway. Pay the $150. The Bar will give you a nice opinion on what's wrong with the site.

And it's cheaper than a lawyer.

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