Monday, April 4, 2011

Unethical Marketing Stings Two Criminal Defense Lawyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But oh how things change...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Jamison said...

You were right. I was wrong. And yes, I am horribly naïve. I would never have imagined that someone could take on a first degree murder case without ever having tried a case before.

P.S. What’s this about Santa?

My Law License said...

The comment about Santa was a joke, obviously. Although I have heard rumors about the Easter Bunny, which are better left for discussion off-line.

Jamison said...

I have been in the blogosphere for over a year now so I can no longer use that as an excuse. And the irony of my calling another lawyer out was not lost on me either. As a result, I can hardly begrudge you the satisfaction of pointing it out.

If I recall correctly, my comment on Susan Cartier Liebel’s site had to do with an entirely different issue; namely, who is a real lawyer and who is not. And the opening paragraph of my recent blog post was not directed at you, Greenfield, or Bennett but at more junior bloggers who engage, I believe, in a much more subtle form of self-promotion. (Because, yes, it stings to have been labeled a shameless, self-promoting marketer.)

But those quibbles aside, the point of your post is well-taken. I plead guilty to naivete and hypocrisy.

My Law License said...

Time served. Next case.