Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Want To Compete With BigLaw? Intimidate With An Ipad

Jay Shepherd, who closed his practice to open a company to teach civil lawyers how to bill like criminal defense lawyers have been billing since time immemorial, exposes the deep, dark secrets (just go with it) of how small firms and solos can compete with BigLaw:

Toys and tech.

I know, I know, can't anyone advocate that better lawyering is what makes us, um, better lawyers?


No, no, and no.

Toys....and tech. Get with the program.

Here we go, grab the Starbucks:

[1] Jay asks why are you using Windows XP, an operating system launched ten years ago last week. Seriously? You’re using an operating system from the Clinton Administration?

Yes, I use XP. It works fine. Does everything I want.

[2] ...small-firm lawyers have a better chance of carrying the latest iPhone or Android device, while their Biglaw counterparts are still lugging around their 2002-ish BlackBerries.

I have a 2010 blackberry. It emails, texts, accesses the net, you know, has the ability to communicate with people and websites. Works fine. Does the job.

[3] Social media. Because you can't talk about lawyers without talking about social media.

[4] Intimidate witnesses with an iPad and impress clients at the same time.

When the iPad came out last year, I made a point of using it in depositions. I uploaded all of the written-discovery documents into my GoodReader app. Then, instead of referring the deponent to the typical stack of photocopied documents, I’d flick and pinch on the iPad screen to pull up the bookmarked documents, then ask him, “Is this your signature?” while I highlighted it on the glass. Yes, I was showing off, and it wasn’t necessarily any more effective than the stack of photocopies. But it was potentially intimidating to the witness, and more importantly, it showed our client (one of the world’s largest banks) that we were on the cutting edge. And that gave them comfort.

So there you have it. Change your operating system, get rid of the blackberry, get an iPad and use it to impress.

Congratulations, you can now compete with BigLaw.

Now if I can just remember one client in the last 17 years that gave a crap about any of this...

But I don't want to get in to what really makes clients want to be your client or how to compete, lawyer to lawyer, with BigLaw. It's boring, and doesn't involve shiny intimidating toys.

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, August 29, 2011

Can We Talk About Our Profession, Just For A Minute, Please?

If you spend any time on the internet these days, you are led to believe that if lawyers don't start buying better iPad-type devices and finding a better, cheaper, faster way to sell documents, they will go broke.

Yes, "the legal profession is changing," but hasn't it been changing since day one?

Lawyers used to be created by people "reading" the law. Then they invented law schools. Law schools had full time professors. Then they started having practicing lawyers teach a class or two. Law used to be read in books housed in libraries, now it's read on computer screens and accessed from websites. BigLaw hasn't been around forever - most (many deceased) partners in old big law firms began their careers with storefront offices. Now most lawyers start solo, and stay solo.

But one thing has not changed - people still need lawyers.

Most of the posts on the net today are whine-fests, collections of thoughts from crying babies telling the "dinosaurs" to get with the program or die.

Then there is Jordan Furlong. Although he's wrong, he does know how to write without sounding like a basement-dwelling unemployed child.

I'd read his recent trilogy if I were you. Not because I agree with it, but because it's (wrong and) well written.

Jordan starts his trilogy with noting the "drawing cards" for Google Ventures in their acquisition of Rocket Lawyer, an online platform for getting legal documents to clients:

...ease, accessibility, affordability, user-driven, user experience. They have nothing to do with the intelligence of the lawyer or the quality of the legal offering and everything to do with the manner in which clients find and access legal services. As I’ve said before, convenience is the new battleground, a fight for which law firms still haven’t even shown up.

So we begin with the notion that there are clients out there looking for 7-11. It's not about the quality, it's about the ability to run in and out quickly and get a "sandwich." May not be a great sandwich, but it's a sandwich, and it's easy and affordable.

Jordan says that companies like Rocket Lawyer have created a client-facing document assembly system that provides channels to licensed lawyers who can review the completed documents and answer more complex questions. He says that Law firms have had the capacity to create these services for years, but they’ve been unwilling or unable to risk changing the nature of their business.

Jordan concludes the beginning of his trilogy with the goal of companies like Rocket and Legal Zoom:

So they have converted the legal advice process and legal document assembly system into marketing and business development opportunities for lawyers. And they have one simple goal in mind: to replace the law firm as the primary platform by which clients find and engage with lawyers.

OK, so the goal is to replace lawyers with sites that sell legal documents.

Got it.

A point that Jordan makes is that if lawyers don't find a way to compete, they will lose, and lose big:

The real story is that firms are buying these new products and services, not selling them. They’re taking marching orders about their use, not issuing them. They’re accepting the new realities of the marketplace, not inventing them. Law firms are now drifting to the periphery of the marketplace, trading places with technology-driven outsiders whose own importance increases daily. Law firms, whether they realize it or not, are settling into a new role: sources of valued specialists called upon to perform certain tasks within a larger legal system that they did not create and that they do not control.

Law is partly a business. The rule of business is that there is always someone out there trying to do it faster and cheaper than you. Those claiming to do it "better, faster, and cheaper," usually find clients who don't care that much about "better" until they realize "faster" and "cheaper" wasn't what they really wanted.

Jordan's take on the role of document selling in the legal profession is a good read, but it misses an important point: Law is also a profession. Down the street from your local 7-11 is a regular everyday grocery store, with the produce manager that knows what type of tomatoes you like to buy, and down the street from there is the gourmet market that special orders the smoked meat you like to eat on Sundays.

There is room for every type of lawyer, and there always will be. Jordan marginalizes the profession when he says: We need to understand what technology is doing to legal services and either adopt that technology, adapt to the client expectations it’s creating, or leave.

I am not "we," and I didn't become a lawyer to sell documents online. Yes, I know, my practice area will never adapt to that type of service. But yours doesn't have to either. My clients want to come to an office and have a private conversation. They want to be greeted by Evelyn, and they want to feel that there is a place where their legal needs are being serviced other than a computer or coffee shop.

There is still a place for lawyers to decide what type of lawyers they want to be, not which type of convenience store they want to operate.

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, August 25, 2011

Dissecting The Sales Job Of The Lawyer Turned Marketer

Why is a lawyer selling marketing advice?

Is it because they made a fortune in the practice of law and now want to cash in on the "secrets" to making money as a lawyer?

Or is it because they practiced as an associate for 8 months and then found a way to convince other lawyers there were secrets that could turn lawyers in to rainmakers?

Better question - are you asking these "lawyer-marketers" the hard questions about their credibility to sell this advice? Are you asking them for 10 references? Are you asking them to tell you about their practice? No, you're just interested in hearing how you can make money. That's all

I've said before that lawyers who want to hire marketers or buy marketing advice, tips, secrets, should only pay real marketing professionals - not lawyers.


Because most lawyers selling marketing advice have no track record of success as lawyers, (or won't talk about it - same thing), have run out of things to say, and never really had anything relevant to say except to puff their resume.

Remember the real estate infomercials? We actually thought the host was some wealthy real estate investor who make billions and now for $19.99 was selling us all his tips. It was crushing to learn he was making money only by selling books and videos at $19.99 a pop. We were so sad when we learned.

Not even respected publications are immune to the draw of the lawyer turned marketer.

An example: The National Law Journal, previously a paper filled only with news about the legal profession, lawyers, law, and court cases, has hired social media guru Adrian Dayton to write for them.

What they seem to ignore, is that he's really just writing for himself.

See, the audience of both the NLJ and young Adrian, is BigLaw. Adrian wants to teach BigLaw how to type on a computer using twitter and other social media sites. He claims to be able to help establish "high value relationships." To the desperate lawyer out there, that means "make money." Adrian never made much money as a lawyer, but let's move on.

Because that's what it's all about, isn't it? Just tell me how to make the money. I don't care who you are, or if you ever made any money, I only care that you claim you can tell me to make the money. I want your tips. I want your "secrets." I want money.

Recently, Adrian wrote "Are You Beer-Worthy?" Here, he claims this is a piece about lawyers who don't like to network.

Cue the first sales move:

Perhaps this is why introverts are drawn to the idea of social networking and business development through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Then, we add a little international cred:

When I traveled to Australia and New Zealand in February to speak to a variety of organizations about social media, I often started my speaking engagements with an anecdote involving a can of Coca-Cola. After sharing this story a couple of times, and not getting much of a response, I realized that perhaps Coke wasn't the same icon in Australia that it was in the United States. So I asked a group of lawyers: What is the comparable soft drink in Australia?

Coke, Beer, are you ready for the marketing tip?

"Beer" came the reply from a lawyer who looked nothing like Crocodile Dundee.

Then we move to the "throw-away" tip as the lawyers turned marketers continue to try and find relevant things to say:

We tend to do business with people we know, like and trust — in that order. Beer-worthiness speaks to the question, "Is this someone you would like to have a beer with?" Is this someone you would enjoy talking to, strategizing with and taking a break with when you aren't in the heat of litigation? That's the type of person clients like to hire.

Yes lawyers, I know, you've never heard this. Yes, we tend to do business with those we know, like, and trust. I know, fascinating, isn't it? You've heard this what, 75,000 times?

Then, as we're trying to make sense of this "secret" of marketing, here comes another sales pitch, after a very, very important disclosure:

In full disclosure, I'm not a beer drinker, but in training and coaching lawyers all over the country about social media I have come to the conclusion that they can help break the ice, help start a conversation. But it ends there. Unless lawyers are willing to pick up the phone, make an appointment, grab a cup of coffee or hit the bar, they won't find traction in their social networking efforts.

Training and coaching all over the country, and in Australia and New Zealand.

Do you see "HIRE ME BIGLAW" between the lines?

Now of course Adrian is making the point that social media is not the end-all-be-all in networking, but not without a few words from our sponsor, if you know what I mean.

I have an idea for the NLJ to propose to Adrian for his next (sales job) piece in their austere publication.

How about, "How social media made me a rainmaker as a lawyer, my long track record of obtaining legal clients through on-line marketing?"

I'll be waiting to read it.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

See Ya Around, Gary

Having nothing to do with law or ethics, yesterday Gary Vaynerchuk "retired" from his online video wine show. For 1000 episodes, almost daily during the work week for 5 years, he hosted Wine Library TV. The concept was simple, he said hello, tasted a few wines, maybe had a guest (some famous, others famous in the wine world, and others merely fans of the show), asked a question, and signed off. It was wildly popular and was a big window to his family's wine shop.

He then re-branded the show earlier this year, calling it "Daily Grape." Now, 89 episodes later, he's done.

There was no champagne, no party, just a simple tasting of one wine, and a highly personal good-bye

Others, many due to Gary's success, have made miserably pathetic attempts at video blogging. I watched one last as many episodes as it had viewers. I think the number was 3. Gary was successful because he had something to say, and he was as real off-line as he was on-line. He received many accolades. Some he mentioned humbly, others he kept quiet about. I recently saw him listed on one of those "most powerful" lists, and immediately realized he hadn't mentioned it anywhere. How many of you social media hounds would ever do that?

I've written about Gary before. He is a rarity in today's internet world - a real guy with a real business and nothing to lie about to puff his resume. Gary's success was due to his personality, his transparency, and his accessibility to his fans. He is one of the few people on social media who is a true success in business, unlike the so-called "social media gurus" who he rightly says "98% are clowns."

Gary had a real business, he didn't create a persona on social media with nothing behind it and then claim he was a success because he had 800,000 twitter followers, or had maxed out on the amount of Facebook friends allowed.

Most people do it in reverse and claim success. While Gary built a business and fan base - a root cause of his social media success, most think it's the opposite - gain followers and friends (with no substantive business behind you) and then claim that you can give business advice because many people are following your retweeting of others blog posts and are your writing of "how to walk and chew gum" posts to the congratulations of your social media circle jerk.

Most people on social media today have never obtained success in anything but typing.

I respect that his decision came after long reflection. To realize that something that has defined you for so long is no longer something you are passionate about, is a difficult moment. Although ironically I found less time to watch, I was disappointed Gary ended his video show. I told him as much, and although I understand the lack of passion to continue it on an almost daily basis, I hope he'll consider a more-than-occasional appearance.

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, August 23, 2011

Who's Who At Biltmore Who's Who?

One of the recurring themes of social media and the internet is "how stupid are people?" Every week there's a new scam and a new group of idiots crying "I had no idea" after their money is transferred from their bank account or credit card, or months after they hired that consultant to change their life for the better.

I have little sympathy.

There are two reasons people get scammed - one, they don't want to know the "road to wealth" or "you have been selected" scam is a scam, and two, they don't take the time to do the difficult work of checking the company or faux consultant out. Today's world is a world of desperation for wealth and recognition, and dammit, if someone is going to sell me a plaque that tells everyone I am somebody, I'm writing the check.

Initially, the honorees receive a card saying they have been nominated for inclusion in Biltmore’s prestigious registry of successful business and professional people. Others get an unsolicited phone call. Once a sales rep gets the “nominee” on the phone, out comes the persuasive, scripted pitch listing Biltmore’s benefits: a personalized plaque, help with producing a professional profile, a listing in Biltmore’s hardcover book and on the company’s website, and having Biltmore issue a news release “to all major search engines, including Google” lauding the honoree’s accomplishments. Also: two round trip airline tickets to one of 40 locations.

Then, the money: A lifetime membership in the social network costs in the neighborhood of $800, according to various complaints. Less costly platinum and gold memberships are also offered, as is a trial membership, which can be upgraded later, for approximately $200

Sounds good, even if the person selling the plaque is a known scam artist.

Meet who's behind door number 1 at Biltmore Who's Who:

The social media company — headed by former commodities broker Stephen Margol, who was banned for life from trading under a settlement with federal regulators — did not respond to numerous phone calls and a visit by The Miami Herald.

[Margol] induced customers to invest with Risk Capital by making false and misleading material representations and omissions during sales solicitation phone calls,” the settlement said. Their investors ended up losing most, if not all, of their money — $16 million between 2001 and 2003. Margol created Biltmore in the summer of 2005 — a year before his commodities ban became official.

But wait, there's more:

Florida’s Division of Consumer Services, the Better Business Bureau and various websites, including RipoffReport.com, have heard from a long string of customers about pushy sales tactics and allegedly unauthorized credit card charges beyond the initial charge.

And as all liars on social media try to mask the truth:

The vast body of negative reviews prompted Biltmore to engage in some online damage control, both on message boards and on Twitter, where the company has written “Not a scam” in its description field. But even that wasn’t quite what it seemed.

The avatar on the company’s Twitter account — a smiling young woman in a yellow polo — is a model whose image is lifted off the All American Clothing Co. website.

People always ask me, as if I picked the winning lotto numbers: "how do you find out all these things?" (I didn't discover the Biltmore Who's Who scam, as I don't take calls from companies like that because I'm not desperately looking for recognition from anyone who will sell it to me.)

Yep. That's where we are. Create the scam, scam the internet, and then scam the internet some more when the truth comes out.

Sound familiar?

By the way, the super-secret way I find out some of these things?


I use this: Link

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cruising The Internet

Unlike the Happysphere of the internet, where otherwise useless people congratulate each other on being at conferences and being passionate about shiny new toys, I'm not one to want to hear how much people like me and think I'm wonderful.

I'd rather know (shudder now) if someone doesn't like me. It makes things easier. I'd rather know because it helps me maintain my practice of not being phony and doing silly things like asking them to lunch or let's say in the case of lawyers... referring them cases or otherwise recommending them while they quietly and cowardly tell others they really don't like me.

Yesterday I tweeted “Do some of you lawyers wake up and say 'I'm going to write the stupidest thing that comes to mind today?'"

After writing that. I felt bad that I wasn’t specific as to what I was talking about.

I was talking about this post, by fellow Miami lawyer Jim Walker.

A brief history.

About a year ago I was invited to Kevin O’Keefe’s “Beer for Bloggers” Miami stop. I arrived at a local watering hole and found Kevin surrounded by his adoring fans (and paid blogging customers), as he loudly announced “oh, my biggest nemesis!”

I sat down, introduced myself to the table, several attendees keeping their heads down (later I would learn they were some of the hacks I write about on the internet) and by chance, (some of the minions were from out of town) I sat next to Miami lawyer Jim Walker.

Jim is a “cruise ship” lawyer, a niche practice of suing cruise lines for among other things, passenger injuries. It’s a great practice for a Miami lawyer, as Carnival and Royal Carribean and a couple other cruise lines are based here.

I never met Jim, nor ever heard of him (I thought), so I treated it as an opportunity to meet a Miami lawyer. You know, "hey, you know so and so, etc..."

Of course my first thought was to act like a normal human being and say hello and then move on to the typical small talk that reveals mutual friends and colleagues, similar interests, and the usual“maybe we can have lunch” conversation.

Instead, Jim began with:

“You’re Scott Greenfield’s friend.”

He didn’t say it like: “Hey! You’re Scott Greenfield’s friend!”

It was in the same tone as “you’re a piece of shit, aren’t you?”

So in a rare moment of willingness to admit I actually know Greenfield and yes, consider him a friend, Jim revealed his handle on twitter was @cruiselaw.

As I was vaguely remembering a back and forth with Greenfield and @cruiselaw, Jim told me the whole sordid story, as if he wanted me to take notes and analyze the situation.

I eventually deflected the conversation back to more irrelevant things like whether he liked the ice cream store down the street from his office that I use to go to as a kid.

It must have been difficult for Jim to think for a moment that I was a normal person, father, husband, involved in the Bar and the Miami community, and possibly a future referral source.

We parted with a handshake, traded cards, emailed a couple times, and I sent his name to a potential client who I assumed never called to retain him.

That’s my relationship with Jim.

So I thought.

Jim got mad the other day and penned this Howard Dean-type (see below) blog post railing against the ABA Journal Blawg 100.

Most of his facts were wrong, but I’ll correct a few.

I think the ABA Journal Blawg 100 contest is a joke. Except for the first year where I thought the winners were worthy, I always have. Since then, even some of the winners will tell you their victory is a joke. It is, no question, a popularity contest.

I was nominated once. By who, I don’t know. I was nominated in the same category as Professor Jonathan Turley, who, 5 minutes after the nominees were announced, was ahead of me by something like 45 million votes. I could never win, so I started making fun of the contest by saying it was “bad for the children” if Turley won, and other funny comments. It was nice to be nominated.

Jim’s rant included a (wrong) assessment what’s been going on recently on twitter.

But this is a fixed race. Its not a popularity contest. You can click on the Twitter account of @Molly_McDonough, the online editor at the ABA Journal, and see her chatting in the last few days, oh-so-cleverly, with her favorite Twitter friends: @mirriam71, ScottGreenfield, @thenambypamby, @btannebaum, and @taxgirl.

That's me - @btannebaum.

Jim doesn’t know that recently, the social media hacks on twitter have been begging for nominations. In response, people like me, and others, have joked with ABA Journal online editor Molly McDonough. We’ve made a big joke out of it.

A joke, Jim. A joke.

You see, the lawyers mentioned by Jim don't use blogging as a marketing tool. We blog to blog. Jim is big in online marketing. He writes about cruise line problems, tweets with hashtags to attract attention, wants you to like him on Facebook, and all that other crap I, and many other lawyers find pointless and silly.

But it’s fine, it's not uncommon that lawyers who buy blogging platforms buy in to the whole marketing aspect of social media and the internet. That I find it cheap and unworthy of a experienced, competent lawyer who claims to be "nationally recognized" is only my opinion.

Jim’s post is down now. I asked him why he took it down and he said:

@btannebaum put online at 3:30 AM to see how photos loaded then took it down, planned to post Setp. 13 when contest closed, cat's out of bag

I just have one question, if you intended to post this in about a month, and we all got the email last week, why would you begin the post with:

"This week I received an email from the ABA Journal reminding me that the "Blawg 100" contest was fast approaching"

The answer is, well, you know the answer.

Maybe he realized he was wrong, sounded a bit childish, or realized his colleague down the street was named on his hit list?

For many reasons, I normally don’t write about lawyers in my own backyard. For one, it’s not collegial. But I'll make an exception here because I do appreciate knowing what Jim thinks of me, and I do agree with another thing he said:

"I suppose I should not be so bitter"

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, August 15, 2011

The Online Ethics Slide. When Does It Hit The Ground?

This Saturday will mark 3 years since I signed on to twitter for the first time.

I quickly signed off soon thereafter.

It wasn't because I didn't like it, or I was getting spammed. It was because I didn't understand it. What was the purpose of this site? Sending 140 character messages to people? Was anyone reading it? Who was on this site sending messages to me and others?

Then I had dinner with someone who said "hey, why did you stop using twitter?"

Answer: "I didn't get it."

Response: "just go on there and talk to people."

So I did.

Now, 3 years later, I've talked to a bunch of people, even met some of them in person, and yes, I've even established some pretty nice relationships.

Twitter has also brought to light the immense amount of scum in the legal profession that live by the phrase "on the internet, no one knows you're a dog."

In just 3 short years, I've discovered the following, and all on twitter:

[1] A disbarred lawyer parading as a blog salesman, while saying he went in to blog sales because he loved it so much, not because he was disbarred.

[2] This same blog salesman signing on as a "professor" to an on-line "university" for lawyers to "learn" about solo practice 3 months after his disbarment, and then terminated after the head of the "university" was advised of his disbarment. The head of the "university" claimed no knowledge, although it was discovered with a quick Google search.

[3] A laid off lawyer (laid off after less than a year) claiming to be an "experienced corporate lawyer" and having the ability to teach BigLaw how to bring in business through social media.

[4] This same laid off lawyer claiming to have been part of a $450 million dollar deal, who then later had to confess his role was "document review."

[5] A lawyer claiming to be a "practicing attorney" due to an of-counsel relationship where there is no evidence of any legal work being done, and anger and hysterics anytime someone inquires about the practice.

[6] A lawyer pleading guilty to felony real estate fraud and still parading as a partner in a law firm. When confronted, this lawyer angrily said that she was innocent and was not going to leave her law partner to have to be the sole rainmaker. She's since changed her bio several times, eventually settling on "Real Estate Law," as if it's an interest, and not her profession.

[7] A lawyer claiming she doesn't practice because she has chosen not to, when the record of her state bar shows her suspended.

[8] A lawyer posting a picture of a tall, glass, office building on his website, when the attorney's presence in that building is simply that he has paid a time share type company to accept his mail there.

[9] A lawyer raging against the use of ethics "against" young lawyers, to then only have to post her recent correspondence from the Bar, initiated by a complaint concerning the possible unauthorized practice of law.

And this is what I have found, although there's probably more that I can't remember off the top of my head.

It's like exterminators tell you - when you see a roach, it means there's many others somewhere nearby.

So where does it stop? When do we stop drawing lines between young lawyer and old lawyers and start thinking of this vast hundreds of thousands of lawyers as a profession?

Have we stopped being concerned with the profession? I think so. I think it's every lawyer for him/herself. It's all about paying the bills, paying the student loans, paying for the house you can't afford, paying for the marketer to put you on the first page of everything that matters in life.

When did the iPad become more important than the networking lunch? When did your social media presence become more important than who you truly are? When will we stop getting excited about every new website (and charging lawyers to teach them how to use it) and start getting excited when a lawyer does something good for a client?

When did the lying, the marketing fake biographies, skirting ethics rules to push your way to the front of the line that used to be called hard work, all become acceptable?

When do we stop congratulating those who see the practice of law as a readily available outlet at a coffee shop and a few documents to sell, or those who failed as lawyers advising other lawyers on rainmaking through social media, and start wanting to learn from those who take on the government, or helped a person become a citizen, or prevented a developer from tearing down history, or just did something that didn't involve an avatar and a keyboard?

There's a phrase I learned in college from a roommate. He said "while we concentrate on the mice, the elephant walks out of the room." Maybe you've heard that, or a variation of that.

What it means, to me, is that we spend so much time on irrelevance, that we don't even notice that the relevant is right there, and leaving.

I've been thinking about this post for a while now, so it's interesting that just this morning Scott Greenfield somewhat expressed the same thing, as he did recently in one of the best posts I've read on his blog: "What if Ethics Came First"

Let's rid ourselves of those who are receiving a pass on the internet. You, yes, you, start calling them out as well.

Let's become a profession again. Let's at least try. Stop pretending that the scum populating the internet don't matter to you. They do. There's nothing to be scared of, these people are small, weak, and don't deserve to be a part of a "profession" that requires an oath.

I can see the bottom, it's not too far away.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Public Apology To Rachel Rodgers

Dear Rachel,

In my post yesterday I offered that if you came through on your assertion that you had proof from the State Bar of Arizona that your practice was in compliance with the Arizona Rules, that I would publicly apologize.

And I will.

But first, I have some questions about your response to this issue. Maybe you can answer them.

[1] You stated that you had written confirmation that that you were in compliance with the State Bar of Arizona rules.

Why didn't you originally say that this was not written confirmation based on your request for said confirmation, but as the result of your (second) Bar complaint in Arizona?

[2] The letter from the Bar, both the initial letter sent to you, and the letter closing the investigation, have the date, name of bar counsel, and other information redacted that does not appear to be privileged.

Why is that?

[3] The letter from the State Bar of Arizona confirms your statement to them that you are a New York Lawyer. While this is true, I have one final question.

When did you write them back to make it clear to them that you (as you said you told them) are also admitted in New Jersey so they could determine whether the rules of the New Jersey Bar were determinative in whether you were (or are) committing the unauthorized practice of law in Arizona?

[4] You say that you typically don't meet with clients in person.

When you do meet with New York and New Jersey clients, are they invited to meet you in your Phoenix office?

I mean, I understand the "adjoining state" issue that arises in out of state practices, but I looked at a map and Arizona is a long drive from New York and New Jersey.

[5] What was the other complaint about?

Thanks for any insight. I really want to get this apology out quickly.

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rachel Rodgers Says "Public Assumptions" May Violate Ethics Rules, My Offer Is This....

Well, we all know the rule on the internet:

If you've dug a hole, keep digging.

A brief history:

Admitted in New York and New Jersey but living in Arizona and practicing law lawyer Rachel Rodgers wrote a post decrying lawyers who use ethics as a weapon against young lawyers.

As it goes, the blogosphere turned it's attention to young Rachel and started writing their own posts about ethics.

Now, Rachel has responded.

No, don't get excited, the response is not here, it's in the safe confines of Solo Practice University.

She was asked for a response to the questions posed about her own practice, and said this:

The State Bar of Arizona has approved me to practice law just as I am, in writing.

When asked to post this "Dear Ms. Rodgers, we approve of the way you are practicing law" letter from the State Bar of Arizona, her response was this:

It is something I am considering.

Now, I remember recently there was some concern that a certain politician was not born in the United States. His eventual response, as morally reprehensible as many of us found it, including me, was to post proof.

That ended the conversation.

When encouraged to post her letter from the Bar, she decided otherwise, and said this instead:

I do not owe you or any other “non-grievance committee” attorney any explanation whatsoever. People may choose to make public assumptions about me and my practice (which, ironically, may or may not make them in violation of their state’s ethics rules), but that does not make me required to respond. Particularly when my statements are perceived as “rants” and the clear meaning of the words I write are misconstrued or downright ignored by those who choose to view them in a negative light.

She's partially right.

She owes no one (maybe except the Bar) an explanation. Her musing about whether a lawyer making "public assumptions" is a violation of my or other's state ethics rules, is, well, a good try, but flat wrong. Making public assumptions, Rachel, is not a violation of the ethics rules. If you want me to go through them with you, let me know. No charge.

In addition, here's my offer to you Rachel:

Post the letter of approval from the Arizona Bar, and "assuming" it says that they have blessed your practice as you are currently practicing, I will "publicly" apologize to you and seek your acceptance of that apology.

The clock starts now.

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, August 11, 2011

Around The Ethicsphere: Reproductive Law Classes at SPU Cancelled, Arizona Ethics Law May Spell "Oops"

It's been a busy day here in the ethicsphere. So let's get right to it.

Students registered at Solo Practice University (SPU) for the "Creating a Niche in Reproductive Law," will have some extra time on their hands as, well, the professor is no longer teaching there. Here is her SPU bio, uh oh, page not found. It was only in December of 2008 that "it was announced that theresa m. erickson would be joining the prestigious faculty at Solo Practice University."

So students may want to consider the class on blogging that was announced in November 2008. Oh wait, that professor was disbarred 3 months before the announcement, so that's not an option.

Anyway, on to the next issue of the day.

You may remember my post from yesterday where I mentioned one Rachel Rodgers practicing with her New York and New Jersey License from her home in Arizona. Lisa Solomon swooped in to accuse me of libel, and now Matt Brown, in Arizona, may have cleared up this whole thing for us:

You see, Ms. Rodgers lists a Phoenix, Arizona address on her website. She offers services that look like legal services. Ms. Rodgers is not a licensed Arizona attorney. I checked. She never explicitly claims to be licensed in Arizona, but she also never offers any kind of disclaimer clearly explaining that she isn’t licensed here. That wouldn’t matter anyway, as I’ll explain in a second. The of-counsel lawyer listed on her website, Donna Seyle, is not a licensed Arizona attorney either

An out-of-state lawyer, not admitted to practice in Arizona but living in Arizona, may not practice law limited to the law of jurisdictions in which he is licensed. The out-of-state lawyer may not perform the practice of law in an Arizona office of record, either the office of the out-of-state lawyer or an admitted Arizona attorney.


Well, it's been a fun day in the ethicsphere folks. Of course as soon as the parties involved here, or the vast amount of Starbucks lawyers who think I'm mean and support any lawyer who tries to make a go of it on the internet (either as a practitioner or host of an online university) make some statement, I'll be sure to pass it along.

As soon as it happens.

The minute they say something.

Any minute now...

Wait for it...

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Off Topic: Some Thoughts For Online Wine Merchants About Consumers

Do online wine merchants know how consumers buy wine? I'm not talking about the occasional buyer who doesn't know that Caymus Special Select is $99 everywhere and therefore hyping that you are selling Caymus Special Select for $99 instead of $119 is irrelevant. I'm talking about the person who buys wine on a monthly basis that equals a car payment or two.

Every day I receive a half dozen emails about wine deals. Many are becoming a joke. For those that wonder what matters to frequent online purchasers of wine, here goes:

[1] I'm done with Parker score v. price.

"92 rated Spanish gem for under $19." That's how the subjects fly in on email.

I don't care. If the wine was so great, why is there enough left that it's now on sale on a website? I know, there's a lot of it. That's also a problem. I can probably get it locally for the same price and not have to wait or pay shipping. Which leads me to...

[2} Shipping.

Shipping is either free or not. "Discounted" shipping is a joke. Either charge me or don't. I don't want to buy 12 bottles, I want 3 or 4, so I'm not interested in saving $5 on shipping because I buy more wine. Free shipping is attractive and can be the determinative factor in a purchase. There is a psychology of wine buyers that they will be less concerned about price in favor of free shipping.

[3] A discount is not $6.

I'm going to jump on a deal where the $33 wine is now $27? Really? No. If it's not 30% or more off, I'm not interested.

[4] If you have a website, there are certain things I'm going to look for to determine your pricing.

The first thing I want to see is if you have Caymus (and Caymus Special Select as I mentioned above). Caymus is $59 at a good discount place. Those of you selling it for $79 should apologize.

I also look for things like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (it's $12-$15, not $19), D'Arenberg Stump Jump (not a wine I drink, but $9 at most), and Insignia ($129-$149, not $169).

[5] Stories about the winemaker and vineyard are interesting, but...

Some of them are waaaayyyy too long, and only end with the bad news that the $27 wine is now $22. Nope.

[6] You miss an opportunity every time you send wine.

I buy the wine. I open the box. What's inside? The wine, in the box. No letter of thanks? No catalog? No coupon for my next purchase? No extra bottle of something I may like? (obviously only for people who spend good money and would be a good return customer.)

What are you saying about your business if when you sell a product all the consumer gets is the product and no sense that coming back may be a good idea or that the owner values your return?

[7] Do not put me on your mailing list, unless I asked.

I ordered wine from you, not an email a day for the rest of my life. How about an email that says "thanks," and "let us know if you want to hear more great offers." Ask if you can intrude into my life, don't intrude and then tell me I can unsubscribe.

[8] Get personal, if you can.

I just bought a case of Oregon Pinot from you. What does that tell you? You don't know. You do know that the 2009 California Pinots are outstanding. Would it kill you to send a personal email suggesting a couple?

[9] We check cellartracker, for specific reasons

If no one has rated this wine, it probably sucks, unless it's brand new.

If it's rated 90 or above with 2 user ratings, I don't care.

If 14 people rated it an average of 92.5, it's probably good stuff.

And of course, we're also clicking over to wine-searcher.com to check prices.

By the way, some of this stuff applies to lawyering, but I really just wanted to talk about wine.

I'm done now.

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

A Young Lawyer Rages Against All This "Ethics" Crap

Back in June (which is a lifetime ago in the blawgosphere), Scott Greenfield wrote about young Rachel Rodgers.

His motivation for the post was my tweet of what Greenfield referred to as a "cheerleading post" on solo practice.

A brief history on solo practice:

Used to be that lawyers would work for someone and then go solo. Now there's no jobs so lawyers are going from law school graduation, right to the computer to create their law firm twitter account and Facebook fan page, and presto - a practice is born with an "experienced, aggressive" attorney. Today we fake it until we make it, as the marketers encourage young lawyers to do.

Back to the post.

It was a post about all the wonderful things about solo practice, and it highlighted Rachel:

The 2009 Cardozo School of Law graduate spent a year clerking for a judge and then decided to start her own firm while working a part-time job at a law firm. She was laid off after they ran out of work for her to do, but her unemployment gave her the push she needed to dedicate more time and effort to building her practice.

OK. Sounds good.

By working from her home in Phoenix, Ariz., and using her website as her storefront, she manages to keep overhead costs less than $500 a month. Her virtual office allows clients to log into her website and, like a bank’s secure online system, send information back and forth between her clients.

Nice, for those clients who don't want to meet their lawyer face to face, don't want an office to visit, don't want to see where and how their files are being managed, and completely trust the confidentiality and total complete rock solid privacy of the internet.

“There have been times when I’ve woken up in the morning and I have new clients,” she said. “They’ve found me online somehow and I’ve never had any interaction with them, but now they’re my clients. It’s pretty sweet.”

New clients, no interaction with them. OK.

Rodgers is catering to other people like herself— burgeoning first-time entrepreneurs, some of whom have been laid off due to the poor economy.

Clients who have been laid off. They are signing on to hire a lawyer over the internet for what, exactly?

And of course: She... maintains a blog, writes on other blogs and stays active on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Cue the tribute to the almighty social media:

“Twitter has helped me be on the cutting edge. I know what’s going on right when it’s happening,” she said. “Also I work in my office by myself most days, so it’s like these are my coworkers. That’s who I interact with throughout the day. It helps me not to be so lonely.”

The cutting edge of what? Weather? Plane crashes? What exactly, please tell us unknowing, old, stick in the mud lawyers, what is going on "right now" on twitter? Did Justin Bieber fart again?

And of course, when we talk solo these days, we never find Solo Practice University too far away, an online collection of lawyers (practicing and non practicing and even one who is referred to as a "practicing attorney" but isn't, but who cares?) and social media consultants ready to teach solo practice over the internet.

Rodgers credits her success to the confidence she gained from the clerkship and to Solo Practice University, a subscription-based website founded in 2009 that offers video, written and audio tutorials for prospective or current solo practitioners.

Must be why Solo Practice University went into a frenzy tweeting out Rachel's rant yesterday.

So after this post appeared, Greenfield wrote about it and took a minute to discover this solo practice wonder kid.

Now remember, this was June.

He found this about the 2009 graduate:

Rodgers has her law office in Arizona, though she's not admitted to practice law there.

She claims: Rachel has developed expertise in various areas of alternative dispute resolution including negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

Then Greenfield wondered whether she actually practices law, you know represents clients, those things that lawyers do?

He asked this because he found this on her site:

Want to Go Solo?

Are you a law student looking to start developing a strategy to go solo upon graduation?

Are you a new law graduate having trouble finding employment?

Are you a lawyer ready to go solo and wondering what area of law to practice?
Would you love to have your own practice but not sure how to obtain clients?

I am contacted every week by law students and lawyers who are struggling due to a tough job market and are wondering how they’ll pay off their loans, practice the type of law they always hoped to and have the type of lifestyle they always wanted. I have spent the last two years researching, planning and then building my own unique law practice and have been able to bring it to a place of profitability while also meeting my lifestyle needs. I believe that you can do the same.

I Can Help!

You can build the law practice of your dreams and I can help! I provide consulting sessions for lawyer-entrepreneurs wanting to set up their own innovative, tech-savvy law practices. For many lawyers (especially recent law grads), entrepreneurship is the only way that they will be able to practice law and do so in a way that fits their lifestyle and philosophy. I understand this dilemma as I am also a recent law grad. I will help you develop a strategy and actionable plan to get your solo practice off the ground.

Now that was June. It's August. Since June, I haven't heard Rachel's name. Apparently though, she's been getting very very mad about things she's read.

So she basically went on a hysterical rant that the happysphere of online lawyers blew kisses to, while others questioned what she was talking about, and told everyone who is not a young lawyer looking for the magic bullet to shut up about ethics and go to hell, meanies:

Let me start off with a warning that as I write this column I am angry. I’ve decided enough is enough and am now willing to address this issue, and the attorneys who do what I am about to describe, head on.

Then she asks a bunch of questions:

Why would young lawyers be against being ethical? Because we have an online presence? Because we, dare I say it, actually market our practices to potential clients? Because we have the nerve to start law practices after completing law school and passing our state bar? Or because we practice law in a non-traditional way?

I can answer that.

No Rachel, because lawyers like me have caught many "fake it til you make it" young lawyers lying about their experience in order to get both clients to hire them and lawyers to use them as consultants. That's unethical.

It's not unethical to claim that 2 years after graduating law school a lawyer can help other lawyers build the practice of their dreams. It's merely ridiculous bullshit that only the naive and desperate would believe. But it's not unethical.

Rachel is also mad (but is afraid to say at who) because:

I have been accused by ‘more experienced’ colleagues’ of being an unethical attorney simply because I practice law online or because I practice law in a state where I do not live...


That's unethical, if it's true. I'm sure it's not. I'm sure she'll be here in a few minutes to explain, as will her happy following of fans.

Rachel's rant includes some prolific statements, like:

Well, too bad! Too bad that you do not understand.

Then there's:

What further toasts my muffins about the so-called unimpeachable ethics of some highly critical, experienced attorneys is that they themselves could certainly take notes from younger attorneys about professional ethics.

Rachel's rant against old rigid lawyers who fear the iPad and too much coffee at Starbucks while researching the newest social media site, then reveals the point:

In conclusion, my point is this: Experienced attorneys stop trying to scare young lawyers half to death with your scary ethics anecdotes about lawyers who were disbarred or suspended due to unethical behavior.

Scary ethics anecdotes.

Like stories of young lawyers who took on cases for which they had no business taking and got disbarred? Like stories of young lawyers who didn't know how to maintain a trust account and got disbarred? Like stories of young lawyers who were suspended for lying about their credentials?


Rachel, listen, like you (say), I get calls "every week" from young lawyers with ethics questions. I answer them. I never "scare" them in to not opening their own practice. Never.

Social media has created a new level of "truth," in general, and in the practice of law. Old lawyers are not to blame, young lawyers are not to blame. Generalities never work.

But the truth, Rachel, is that the current state of the legal economy has caused young lawyers who can't get jobs to blow their brains out on the internet, practice in non-traditional ways, and lie, yes, lie to get clients. People do weird things when money is on the table.

And when a young lawyer calls me after committing an ethics violation because they "didn't know" they couldn't do what their marketer or online work at home lawyer consultant told them, I always wish they would of called me before they screwed up.

So I could scare them.

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, August 8, 2011

News For The Dedicated And Proud Alumni Of The University Of St. Thomas School Of Law

I don't know anyone who graduated from Minnesota's University of St. Thomas' School of Law (not to be confused with my hometown's St. Thomas University School of Law), but I trust the latest alumni newsletter is going to contain some wonderful news - "we're out of the Joseph Rakofsky case!"

That's right, the meritless defamation case rife with jurisdictional issues (there was none over this defendant) is now a part of the law school's history. Alumni can be proud to know that their law school, where students are taught advocacy, good legal writing, and of course, an occasional legal premise about frivolous law suits, sent Rakofsky packing with a confidential settlement (that someone, wonder who, leaked.)

While all the other defendants are spending their time showing the world the ridiculous law suit, filing motions to dismiss and then probably motions for sanctions, the University of St. Thomas decided it was a better move to pay Rakofsky $5,000 to settle.

The 367 alumni that donated to the annual fund need not worry, as this money was not paid from your annual donations to the school, those will continue to be used for capital improvements (maybe a new courtroom to show students where they may wind up if they don't settle frivilous lawsuits) and endowed chairs (a professor in the area of "go-away" money may be on the horizon).

As Mark Bennett puts it:

By settling with Rakofsky, the law school and Hackerson have painted a great big target on themselves for anyone else who wants to file a frivolous lawsuit. (Hear that, disgruntled unemployed St. Thomas grads? File that lawsuit; they’ll settle for nuisance value!)

You may wonder why the University of St. Thomas chose to be the lone of over 80 defendants to settle. Well, what was the alternative? To fight? To show Rakofsky that this is a law school and law schools know the law?

Is that really worth spending more than $5,000?

By the way, the school website photo of the University of St. Thomas staff member (your librarian) that was named in the suit was, contrary to prevailing thought, not taken after the settlement.

The University of St. Thomas is celebrating it's 10th year "integrating faith and reason in the search for the truth."

I think they need to integrate an understanding of the law, to start.

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, August 1, 2011

No Adrian Dayton, Gaming Google To Create A Reputation Is Not What Lawyers Should Do

Adrian Dayton probably wasn't real happy when he Googled himself and found that the fifth entry wasn't a post written by one of his happy crew of social media fake experts. It was one of the posts I wrote about his background where he finally admitted his "work" on the 450 million dollar merger was nothing more than reading documents. (He still uses this "experience" in his bio though).

For those of you new to life, I've been writing about the wonderment of Adrian Dayton for a while now, bewildered how a 6 month lawyer could convince BigLaw that he is the answer to their rainmaking woes when it comes to social media. I've opened some eyes, and had my eyes opened by the ignorant lawyers out there who could care less who pretends to know how to build a law practice.

So what do we do when we see something on Google we don't like? Obviously if it's true, if it exposes our lack of experience or that we've been less than truthful about our background - we have to get rid of it. Someone may read it and, well, we can't have that.

So how do we manufacture our own reputation on the internet?

Yes people, I'm here to put on my social media/SEO hat (for free) and tell you out there that there is a way to game Google. It's not easy, but it can be done.

Google reacts to your name. It reacts to "strong" sites where your bio exists. The best way to game Google is to a) have posts written with your name in the title, and b) have people link to you.

The best Google profiles (and by that I mean your first page search results, not the actual "Google profile"), are those that are "organic." This means they were established through your blog posts, blog posts written about you, others linking to you, and other sites where your information exists like Facebook, LinkedIn or Avvo.com.

The game is played when you try to "push" down negative results. And the way you do that, if not many people have something good to say about you, is to write about yourself, and beg for links.

This is where a disturbing trend appears.

A while back, I was trying to establish whether another lawyer was actually practicing law and using the technology they were writing about daily and encouraging other lawyers to use. Questions were raised, and internet chatter began to revolve about the person's true background. As a result, this person wrote a self-promotional piece about who they "really are." I found this sad, as manufacturing a reputation is weak and small. Reputations are established by what people say and think about you, not what you say and think of yourself (unless you're a marketing hack lawyer who has created their own fake reputation to which no one but the naive can attest.)

This post I describe was the inspiration for Adrian Dayton's latest puff piece: "Who is Adrian Dayton?". Dayton obviously feels that his view of his background, including his "work" on the 450 million dollar merger, needs to be told, again, and would appreciate if you would write your own self-promotional piece and link to his. By linking to his, you help him with his goal, to have a better Google page. Since the only person telling the story of Adrian Dayton is me, he's got to tell his own.

So write about yourself, tell us who you really are, and help Adrian Dayton's Google Analytics.

This is what we've come to in our profession. Those with law degrees who self-admittedly "have no business practicing law," and are trying to earn a buck from practicing lawyers by playing the "I'm one of you" card, are out there manufacturing their reputations, and asking for your help.

Reputations are earned though.

Have you earned yours, or have you created it?

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