Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advice To A 1L On Dropping Out: Don't Forget Your iPhone Charger

Above the Law continues to take on the heady topic of whether someone who went to law school expecting a big fat check upon graduation should consider the economics of it all and drop out.

Thus far we know that 66% of ATL's readers thought a 2L should stay in school, while 34% are just happy to be able to use profanity anonymously in the comment section while eating many Doritos on mom's couch.

Now ATL has switched it up - thrown in a curve - "changed the game" as game changers and asked: what if the student is a 1L?

The question is not based on the student reconsidering whether to become a trial lawyer, or whether to seek a career representing the poor, or setting up a nice general practice - the question is about money.

What if the student is just in his first semester of 1L year and can get out before incurring even another semester’s worth of debt?

The post's author goes further into framing this choice as one where money is the sole consideration, referring to the decision as a challenging value proposition.

So the 1L is thinking about dropping out.

Here's the summary of his thought process:

$150k of Debt + Fewer Jobs + More Attorneys = Law school is probably going to end up being a bad investment.

He says he's willing to put myself through it if there’s a good chance it will pay off in the end, but that there's been a dramatic change on the return on investment calculation.

He's willing to stay if he's only going to be in debt $50k, but now that he's invested $21k, he can't see investing another $21k for a second semester.

He's rightly concerned about getting a job, noting the truth that all law students angrily deny - that more students than ever have been applying to law school over the last few years to avoid the bad economy.

He's also not that interested in the life of a lawyer, as he sees that life: from what I understand, private practice is an exercise in the permanent sacrifice of work-life balance. Late nights at the office every week or two is very different from working 12 hours every day. It’s very unlikely I’ll be able to make good money in private practice and have a healthy work-life balance. I don’t want to work 60-70 hours a week until I’m 40.

I love the last sentence of that paragraph. Somehow flip-flops and a backpack come to mind.

In one of the most prolific quotes I've seen from a person who should have never applied to law school, he says: I researched law school a lot more than I researched being an attorney.

When I write over and over again that part of the problem in law school today, and with lawyers, is that many of those who entered this profession, did so for the wrong reasons - they did it for the cash, I hear the screams of law students and young lawyers yelling "that's not true!". When it got too expensive, and the payback was not guaranteed, it became less attractive. There are dozens of law students in every law school who see the education as a ticket to a six figure salary. These students couldn't care less if they were selling toilet paper or driving taxi cabs - whatever makes money, that's where they want to be.

But that's not what the law profession is about. It's about clients (sorry Dan). It's about ethics. It's about being an officer of the court, and it's about advocating. It's not about paying off debt. It's not about a return on an investment.

I read this post and all I could think was that this law student sounds much more like a stockbroker. His entire analysis is whether it's worth it to spend the money for an education that may not find him the darling of the Bar in terms of high fees and a life of luxury. There's nothing about the profession, except a bunch of whining about working hard.

So pack it up, make sure you have that favorite Starbucks travel mug, and don't forget your iPhone charger - it's probably the best investment you've made.

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, November 23, 2010

The Finest Expose (Ever) Of The (Fraud That Is The) Social Media Guru

This morning I awoke to the greatest article I've ever read on the fraud that is the social media guru. I hope you all will read it and understand why this "industry" is an industry of nothing. It is an industry of liars and failures in other careers now selling air.

I've been writing about this for a long time, wondering if anyone else saw what I saw. Some did, but many are just so enamored with the possibility of making money that they don't care that the industry is a complete fraud.

Milo Yannopolous has, and here's some spectacular observations from his article:

He begins: On the outskirts of a regional city in Britain - Bristol, perhaps - two hundred people gather to discuss "radical engagement strategies". They are oddballs: a mixture of chippy girls with unruly fringes and sweaty, overweight blokes with bits of burger stuck in their beards.

These are the social media gurus, a rag-tag crew of blood-sucking hucksters who are infesting companies of all sizes, on both sides of the Atlantic, blagging their way into consultancy roles and siphoning off valuable recession-era marketing spend to feed their comic book addictions. They claim to be able to improve your relationships with your customers by "executing 360 degree reignition programs". But who are these people? Where did they come from? And how on earth have they managed to hoodwink so many big companies so quickly and so comprehensively?

So the gurus are hired, and promptly set about cutting and pasting "social media strategy guidelines" into Powerpoint presentations and swanning around the office instructing secretaries about "social media for social good" and how Twitter's going to change the world, all the while leeching off the productive bit of the organisation.

He says that beneath the social media guru cover are layers of life coaches, yoga teachers, acupuncturists and feng shui consultants. That's the level of business insight and mission-critical expertise we're talking about here.

He nails it on why these frauds are able to exist: One of the conditions that has allowed the faux-academic colloquy of the social media industry to grow so fast is a lack of checks and balances online, especially within social networks. Highly questionable practices go either unremarked upon or purposefully ignored by the Twitter bubble. When someone gets caught with their trousers down, you're more likely to see messages of support than opprobrium. Plus, the industry is well mobilised, and dishes out a number of ludicrous awards to itself.

Milo sees the groupie nature of these scam artists, referring to it as poisonous cult of the social media guru.

He then makes the point: Social media consulting amounts to little more than mastering the art of the bleeding obvious and no company, no matter what its size, should even consider hiring external social media consultants. Internally, the most you need is a couple of interns with laptops.

All is not lost though, Milo predicts the end of the social media guru. I hope he's right. Fortunately, there are signs that the window of opportunity for all this silliness is closing. Firms are cottoning on to people who misrepresent and overstate their achievements and add no value to businesses while showing off to other "like minds" about how many Twitter followers they have.

In descrribing social media conferences, Milo says the red thread running through these events is, "I can't believe we're still getting away with this."

As said in Jerry Maguire: "Finally! - Someone said 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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why BigLaw Should Blog (Hint: There's A Marketer Behind It)

I just continue to laugh.

As the marketers overtake social media with their promises to double lawyers income and once a week webinars about how twitter and LinkedIn are the keys to being a good and busy lawyer, I just chuckle - to the point of tears.

Are you all writing these checks? Are you seriously thinking these marketers who make these promises, who have failed as lawyers and are now here to take your money to tell you how not to fail, are the answer?

Yes. You do.

The latest round of phony discussions surround the notion that BigLaw is woefully behind in - - - - blogging!

BigLaw needs to blog more, says a former 8 month lawyer who - - - - sells marketing services to BigLaw. Look at that. He sells what he encourages lawyers to buy. Nice objective journalism - good going National Law Journal, did you run out of practicing lawyers to serve as columnists?

Who knows better about blogging for lawyers then a guy who says he thinks "traffic is relevant," and gets these kind of numbers (visits) to his blog?

His qualification to market to BigLaw? He wants to market to BigLaw. BigLaw of course has the most money to spend on marketing, so why not start a discussion on how what you do for a living is something that is necessary?

BigLaw's perils are many. They paid too many people too much money, and many BigLaw firms became real estate heavy. When the economy crashed, people ran out of money and BigLaw suffered.

Blogging will not solve their problems. People who hire BigLaw, don't spend time reading blogs.

So the question was raised yesterday whether "we know if this is really hurting them in lost market share."

The answer?


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, November 11, 2010

A Word From The Social Media Marketers: Dont Say That!

I had to look at my calendar today to confirm that it was Veterans Day and not April Fools Day. Otherwise, I would have thought LexBlog owner Kevin O'Keefe was completely joking.

His headline:

Lawyers are ill served by those preaching the pitfalls and perils of social media.

(And the social media marketers cheer - "Thanks Kevin, we need the support!")

Thank you Kevin. Thank you for confirming what I've been saying for a long time - the social media marketers can't deal with the naysayers. The marketers all tow the line, they all support each other, and their goal is not only to convince lawyers that social media is "it," but that those that disagree are wrong and hurting their attempts to get dollars from desperate lawyers.

Kevin says the following:

There are forces of lawyers, conferences, publications, and associations who are scaring lawyers from using social media. Perhaps not on purpose, but by emphasizing the risks of a lawyer using social media over the rewards they're having that effect.

He laments the red flashing lights in the form the of risks in using social media.

He considers "scare tactics" to be discussions of:

•Inadvertent Attorney-Client Relationships
•Conflicts of Interest
•Communications and Advertising
•Unauthorized Practice of Law
•Improper Contact and Misconduct
•Duty of Candor

i.e. - Ethics.

While he calls these legitimate questions and concerns, he then says what can only be described as the punch line to the joke:

And no one, especially me, is saying the Internet is an 'ethics free zone' for lawyers.

Excuse me Kevin, but are you fucking kidding me?

Ethics is the enemy of good online marketing. There's unethical behavior all over the internet. We may like to think it's a small minority, but that's just not the case.

Kevin's point about what he's reading on the internet, the "scare tactics," and the warnings, is that for example: If I'm young solo practitioner doing family law, I'm thinking twice about starting a family law blog.

Kevin believes that though lawyers may hear of the sensational, it's the sensational that makes for good news - and that the sensational is the exception not the rule.

No Kevin, it's becoming the norm. As more and more lawyers run to the internet to create a client base, more and more of them are outright lying about their experience and skills.

What I like about Kevin's post is that he is completely honest - he just wants the negative discussion to stop. For social media marketers and sales people, the bottom line is what's important. It's a sales industry, and no one sells when people poo-poo the product, even a little.

He says he's not asking for it to stop though:

As an editor, conference coordinators, author, or speaker, you're highly influential. Please temper your discussion on the risks of social media. Sure talk risks. But the rewards to lawyers using social media are so great. Mention them.

But then he does:

No more 'pitfalls and perils' articles and presentations. Let's talk about what's really going on. Let's recognize the risks while emphasizing the rewards.

Emphasizing the rewards? You mean selling social media to lawyers.

Kevin says if we do that we'll improve the lives of lawyers.

I'm sorry, but I will not stop talking about the pitfalls of social media, regardless of the fact that the marketers have all blocked me, cried to each other in private about "those mean lawyers" on the internet that are spoiling it for everyone, and determined the best way to deal with their own lack of ethics is to hope no one is reading.

Lawyers should be concerned about the pitfalls - isn't that what practicing lawyers do - evaluate the pitfalls of a proposed strategy and determine whether to move forward? I'm sorry, I forgot, most of the marketers haven't practiced law at all, or for a very long time.

So it's just about writing the checks to the marketers. These are sales people trying to make a living off lawyers - think they give a crap about your ethics or your Bar complaint?

I think social media, blogs, Facebook, and all that other crap (sorry for calling it crap, marketers) are great tools if used properly and ethically.

That's not what's happening here, and we all, we all know 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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Message From The Marketers: The Truth Hurts, Us.

The debate is raging online. The ABA is talking about the possibility of regulating online content - blogs, Facebook, twitter, websites, and the marketers are not having any of it.

Many of the lawyers aren't all that interested either.

Ethics is the enemy of good marketing, cry the marketers.

The marketers call it "regulation." As I've said before here, I'm all for good regulation, and I agree that it could get out of control. It's a tough spot to be in - to be a lawyer that wants a little more regulation of the wild-west that has become the internet, but worries it could become oppressive.

Marketing is a simple concept. You know that picture on the menu at the fast food restaurant of the hamburger you're about to order? It's plump, juicy, the tomato is perfectly cut, the lettuce looks like the ruffle on a hand made dress?

Then you open the wrapper.

Take for example the one guy who couldn't be happier that I've taken a break from twitter - Adrian Dayton (sorry Adrian, no link love here, I do know how much you love it.)

Adrian graduated law school, worked for a firm for 8 months (after 6 there was no work to be had), and while there he read some documents regarding a $450 million dollar closing. Then he fell in love with twitter. He now says he's a change agent for BigLaw - he consults with "large law firms" on using twitter and other social media.

Here's part of his bio:

Adrian Dayton is an attorney with a passion for growing law practices through the power of social media. As an expert in the field....

Expert in the field? What field? Who named him (other than him) an expert?

It doesn't matter. There are no rules.

I'm an expert in starting my car in the morning. I'm also an expert in opening my mail.

And his take on reading documents in an office for that $450 million dollar deal?

Before founding his current business, Adrian spent almost a year working as a corporate attorney with Jaeckle Fleishmann and Mugel where he and his team closed a merger worth approximately $450 million dollars.

His team! He! Adrian closed a $450 million dollar deal.

Hey folks, run with it. There's no rules, no ethics necessary.

I've asked Adrian to discuss all of this, but, well, what's the point. The goal here is to convince others, (i.e. Marketing) to hire him. As long as no one asks the important questions, or does the 5 minute investigation, no one will ever know the absolute truth.

What if regulations caused Adrian to have to say this:

Adrian Dayton worked for less than a year at a law firm and was then laid off. While there, his firm did a $450 merger for which Adrian read some documents. After leaving, he found twitter and decided to begin a career teaching others how to use the free online site. He even wrote a book about twitter. While this is the total sum of his experience, he is a social media consultant to large law firms, and calls himself an expert.

I don't do death penalty work. Thirteen years ago I did some research on a death penalty case and went to interview the client, post-conviction. The appellate lawyer I did the research for, won the appeal and then tried the case to an acquittal.

"Brian Tannebaum is an experienced death penalty lawyer, having successfully represented the defendant in a double murder, post-conviction, where the case was reversed and then tried to an acquittal."

Like that, marketers? It's awesome, huh?

It's also bullshit.

That's why you like 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

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Message From The Florida Supreme Court to Lawyers And Law Students

Those that represent lawyers and law students in Florida have been seeing it for a while - The Florida Supreme Court has changed, significantly. But it wasn't until a couple weeks ago, when the Court rejected the recommendation of a judge that Hank Adorno be reprimanded for what another appellate judge called a "scheme to defraud," that the rest of the legal community woke up.

The Court has become ultra conservative, and lawyers have been told that "misconduct will not be tolerated." I don't know that misconduct was ever "tolerated." Misconduct has always been dealt with by the filing of a complaint, review by the Bar, possible review by a grievance committee of lawyers and non-lawyers, then proceeding with the filing of a complaint (or not), and review by a judge. This judicial review allows for the presentation of evidence, or acceptance or rejection of an agreement between the Bar and the lawyer. In all cases where a complaint is filed, the Florida Supreme Court has the final say.

The rejection by the Court of consent judgments between the Bar and lawyers, or the recommendation of judges, is nothing new. It's just becoming more of the norm. It's now the "shot heard around the world" as the Court rejected the recommended reprimand of a BigLaw partner, and is now considering a 3-year suspension or disbarment.

That the Court is getting tougher on lawyers is not the point of this post. The goings on in the Bar are what's of interest to me.

We self-regulate in Florida. All discipline is handled by the Bar, which spends about half their budget - 10 million dollars - handling complaints. In recent years there has been a threat to end self-regulation, to send discipline to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The Bar shudders, lawyers shudder, lawyers who practice in this area are shuddering less. We see the threats working - causing the Bar to cower to the legislature in a cry of "look, we're tough on them!" The end result is that the Bar is not seeking discipline based on what it thinks is appropriate, but on what it believes the Court wants. This isn't self-regulation, this is cow-towing.

The question I get is "should we recommend discipline we know the Court won't accept?"

Yes, you should. You, Florida Bar, should recommend what you deem appropriate, and let the Court ask for an explanation. The lesson of the Adorno case is that when lawyers are accused of rule violations, the Bar will now appeal recommendations of judges in order to preserve self-regulation, not because they disagree with the discipline.

Underlying all of this is the public. The Bar is not here as a "lawyers union." The Bar exists to discipline, administer CLE, and as one of Florida's newest consumer protection agencies. The public hates lawyers, the Bar has stopped promoting lawyers, and is now in the business of letting the public know that they are there for you. Evidence? More and more inane, non-sensical client rants containing no rule violations are being sent to lawyers for a response. The reason? To let the public know that the Bar is "on it."

And the law students? Recently the Florida Board of Bar Examiners met with law school deans, prosecutors and public defenders. (In Florida, a law student needs to pass the character & fitness investigation to intern as a prosecutor or PD - a stupid rule). The Board, setting more and more students for hearings for things they were "dropped off at home by the cops" for when they went to law school, expressed concern about "what kind" of law students the schools were admitting.

Get it? 90,000 lawyers in Florida, 2,000 graduates a year, a tougher Court looking closer at who's being admitted - something's gotta give.

Truth be told, and I've said it many times here - more and more law students have no concept of becoming lawyers, and never should have gone to law school in the first place. But there has never been a study, nor any statistics presented that prove a correlation between a law student with "issues" pertaining to character & fitness, and their career as a lawyer. I wonder how many law students who have passed character & fitness free and clear, have gone on to have ethical issues as a lawyer.

The Board though, is making law students go through more and more hoops for things in their past. Law students who are lucky enough to have a job can kiss those jobs goodbye when the Board rules they need to sit out 6 months to think about what they did 8 years ago.

It's getting harder to get in to the Bar, and stay in the Bar. In concept, this doesn't sound too bad. We don't need anymore unethical lawyers. We do though, need to make sure decisions are appropriate, and not just crowd pleasing.

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, November 1, 2010

To The Whining Online Marketers: You Started This

The headline made me chuckle: ABA Ethics Study of Client Development Tools Alarms Marketers.

Anything that alarms marketers must mean that something having to do with honesty and integrity is getting too close for comfort.

The lead to the story confirms the reason for the whining: The American Bar Association is examining the ethics of online client development tools such as blogs and Facebook, the sentence ends and some marketers are none too happy about it.

Well, we can't have unhappy marketers now, can we?

So the ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20 wants to know if it should pursue further research and regulation of that area over the next two years.

Oh boy. The ABA wants to clean up the sewer that is online legal marketing. What has the world come to when the American Bar Association, the former pillar of the legal community that is now to social media and social media marketers like a screaming teenager is to a Taylor Swift concert, wants to take a look at the online swill?

Larry Bodine, who I remember not being a real big fan of twitter, said the ABA should be concentrating its ethics effort on lawyers who steal from their clients, not lawyers who use Twitter.

No Larry, I think the ABA should be concentrating on lawyers who use twitter to steal from clients, by lying to them about their qualifications, by setting up profiles that stretch the truth, by paying online marketers who are only interested in "creating" the impression that the lawyer is more than they really are.

Larry thinks that the internet is a major way clients find attorneys these days, and regulations that would prompt lawyers to shy away from that arena would only hurt the public. He wants other marketers and bloggers to vocally oppose further ABA involvement in online client development.

I oppose further ABA involvement under one condition: lawyers and marketers stop lying. Lawyers and marketers stop creating images of lawyers that are hurting the public by creating impressions of the lawyer that are deceptive, false, and misleading. The ABA isn't concerned that lawyers are advertising online - they are concerned that lawyers are lying online.

Larry is 100% correct - Lawyers are very ginger when it comes to marketing online, and this is just going to frighten the daylights out of them if it becomes an ethics rule.

Ethics rules are not the enemy of good marketing.

Or are they? Is that the message? If we have to tell the truth or be subject to discipline we'll all go out of business? Lawyers? And marketers?

Maybe it's time for lawyers to start being less "ginger" in their online marketing.

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