Lawprofs ♥ Spam

In an almost surreal post at The Faculty Lounge, where law professors hang out to discuss deep, scholarly thoughts, the sort of stuff that they assume would only interest fellow academics, Drexel’s own Dan Filler ponders the age-old question, “is it ethical to let lawyers spam their comments just to get comments at all?”

Bloggers always see lots of spam in the comments – particularly in the older posts.  These days, we see a ton of comments signed by (presumably faux) Air Jordan, Uggs, and Viagra sellers.  The signature is attached to a link to a commercial site apparently seeking to drive up traffic via the Google algorithm.  When I feel the energy, I clean a ton of them out….but too often they live forever in our archives.  

Recently I noticed some  spam-like comments originating from law firms.    Perhaps too quickly, I erased some of them.

Ever generous, you will no doubt notice the parenthetical, presumably faux, because there are many people with the given name Uggs and Viagra.  Sadly, there may well be a few with the name Air Jordan, though they usually post comments under the name “Truth Speaker” or “John David Galt.”  But I digress.

Filler goes on to note, as examples, comments to a post about lawyers as presidential candidates, including one by the Rosenblum divorce firm about candidates writing books, completely off-topic, and this one:

Tobler Law – aka Tobler & Associates (your accident and injury team) – adds:

Thanks for the post! I had no idea there were so many lawyers as past presidents – I knew about Lincoln and Taft, but the rest I was clueless on.

I too was thrown by the clueless part, since it’s clearly truthful.  Yet Filler had questions.

Now, I recognize that this might not be spam.  Perhaps someone from Tobler was researching this question about lawyer presidents, came upon a two and half year old post,  was stunned to realize that Richard Nixon (to say nothing of Bill Clinton) was a lawyer, and felt compelled to comment.  Maybe Mr. Rosenblum thought this was the perfect setting to pontificate about the use of books as a campaign fund-raising tool.  But call me a skeptic.  I think that these folks are spamming to drive up their Google profile.

Skeptic.  As a lawprof, Filler should know as well as anyone how stupid trench lawyers can be, offering such foolish and tangential comments in their effort to show their interest and appreciation for scholarly blogging.  And yet Filler, rather than appreciate the outside interest, questions the bona fides of the comment.  Skeptic indeed.

Such heady concerns, raising the obvious question of how long it will take before this post is expanded and expounded to find its rightful place in the Harvard Law Review, earning Filler the admiration of his peers he so richly deserves.  Filler goes on to ask the really hard questions:

Is it ethical for lawyers to do this?  Is the strategic production of spam comments a form of advertising?  If so, is it in compliance with advertising regulations?  Are there other restrictions that might make such spurious comments improper?  Does it make the profession look bad?

What boggles the mind is that these tough questions reflect near-total isolation from what has long been a subject of discussion nearly everywhere else in the blawgosphere.  Is there any question whatsoever that this is spam?  Is there any doubt that the idiotic comments were posted for the sole purpose of gaining SEO juice?  Is it conceivable that even a lawprof would find it difficult to recognize that it makes the “profession” look like crap?

Well, apparently the answer to these “yes,” as reflected in the comments to Filler’s post.

Yes, I was a bit puzzled about those two comments, but (vainly, perhaps) chose to believe that they were just associates who were drawn to my brilliant post like moths to a flame…

The foregoing apologia was offered by Willamette Lawprof Laura Appleman, whose Yale JD obviously didn’t do enough to clue her in.

Then there’s the ironic thoughts of personal injury lawyer, Ron Miller,

I tend to publish all of these types of comments. Sure, they might be a little spammy but having commenters is good and while not particularly insightful, these somewhat hallow comments still add something to the conversation.

Ole Miss lawprof  Ben Cooper doesn’t see them as advertising, to which ethics lawprof  John Steele responds:


Just for the sake of argument, let me offer a weak argument that some spam is misleading. When the spam comment is generic, off-point, and solely for the purpose of jacking up search engine results, is the comment at least insincere and therefor “misleading”?

To which Cooper replies that Steele’s is about the best argument one could make against “spam comments,” implicitly endorsing the ethics of spammers.  And naturally, rounding out the comments at the bottom is a spam comment, though not from a lawyer.

Sadly, this bit of silliness at the Faculty Lounge reflects two deeply troubling problems, that lawprofs allow, and thus encourage, the spam that the rest of us have been fighting to kill.  See Turk, the  Popehat guys, Carolyn ElefantBennett and Tannebaum, all of whom have gone to great lengths in their effort to clean up the never-ending opportunity for scum to embarrass the profession.  All the while, lawprofs invite them in for dinner.  Thanks for all your help, pals.

More importantly, trench lawyers have long been concerned that the academic blawgosphere and practical blawgosphere rarely intersect.  While some of us, myself included, keep abreast of the lawprof blawgs, the fear is that they ignore real lawyers in favor on insularity and isolation.  This is a significant problem, given that law schools are already far behind the curve when it comes to providing a useful education to students and lawprofs chose to ignore the ideas and concerns of real lawyers in favor of chatting amongst themselves.

This is one of those posts which proves the point beyond a reasonable doubt.  For crying out loud, would it kill you guys to pay just a little attention to real lawyers?  Maybe then you wouldn’t have to ponder such ridiculous thoughts.

10 comments on “Lawprofs ♥ Spam

  1. John Steele


    John Steele here. If you view the disciplinary rules as quasi-penal statutes, one can believe that spamming isn’t grounds for discipline even if one nonetheless believes that spam is nasty. Heck, you can believe that even if you view the disciplinary rules as civil liability rules. (And for the record, I enjoy your blog and am a “real lawyer.” I teach as a side thing.)

  2. SHG

    Hi John.  I knew it was you from the name you used above your comment.  There are two issues, the first of which is the goofiness of wasting one’s cells on the notion that spam comments, an abuse of bandwidth like a trespasser ab initio, might be anything other than garbage.  They’re garbage.  They are not merely insincere, but an intentional abuse of the ability to comment for ulterior purposes (backlinks) in violation of the privilege a blawger grants by allowing comments.

    Second, as far as the ethical concerns, lawyers are prohibited from engaging in deceptive marketing.  Spam comments are deceptive.  They are intended solely to gain the backlink, and try to provide the minimal necessary content to get a fool to let the content remain intact.  They do not contribute to a discussion.  They do not provide insight.  They aren’t meant to.  Most of the time, they are posted by this guy from Bangalore named Rashid.  Trust me, he’s not really a lawyer.  Not even a lawprof. 

    Spam is nasty.  Deception is worse.  This is pure deception for SEO purposes and nothing more.  That’s neither okay or ethical.  And this is a discussion that we (meaning, non-lawprofs) had years ago, and it’s mind-boggling that it should reappear now in such  tepid form at the Faculty Lounge.

  3. Turk

    Two points:

    First, most blog comments are coded as “no follow” so there isn’t any SEO benefit, which means the joke to some extent is on the lawyer that outsourced their marketing and is paying for garbage.

    Second, We don’t need ethics committees to discipline spammers. It only takes as long as it takes to write a post. Then the lawyer that was counting on that comment spam SEO learns real fast what Backlash SEO is all about. They don’t usually like to see their names in lights that way.

  4. SHG

    But that only applies to those who recognize lawyer spam as a bad thing.  If lawprofs prefer spam comments to no comments, then there’s an incentive to spam rather than SEO backlash.

  5. Rita Handrich

    Let me chime in with an alternative hypothesis.

    As new bloggers, we were so excited to get our first comments that we published them. It took a while to understand they were spam. Then we went back and deleted all of them. After being inundated, we found plug-ins that strip almost all of the spam for us and go in once a week to clear out the rest. We’ve left comments moderated so we approve each one individually IF they make it through the spam filters. Few comments that are not real make it through.

    The point is that many of the lawprof blawgs are group endeavors. My guess is they may not know these comments are spam/SEO efforts. I understand the idea that you ‘should’ know these things and you ‘should’ do your own policing of your own blog. That is how we do it (pat on back) but not how everyone does. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are stupid or intentionally soliciting spam. It could simply mean they are doing something to give back to the profession and someone else on campus is doing the maintenance work.

  6. SHG

    First, that isn’t an alternative hypothesis, but an excuse.

    Second, they have expressly said (thus making unnecessary for you to “guess”) that comments universally recognized as spam are still welcome by lawprofs, whether because they are related, if only tangentially, or they are better than no comments at all.  The question has nothing to do with whether they spend enough time policing or moderating their comments, but why they pay no attention to the rest of the blawgosphere (which would have long ago enlightened them as to the spam they’re getting) and why they have any question as to the substantive merit, and ethical legitimacy, of spam comments. 

    If they love spam, so be it.  But it’s still spam.

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