The Truth Free Zone Eats One Its Own

Jeff Gamso posts about a young lawyer named Joseph Rakofsky, who did nothing more than a hundred legal marketers and youthful lawyer advocates urge every unemployed lawyer to do.  Be all that you can be on the internet. 

There are  whole conferences whose purpose is to teach legal marketers how to create more effective lies be more persuasive in social media.  The painted smiles and group love are dedicated to turning sow’s ears into silk purses. 

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. 

Gamso, who learned of the story via Jamison Koehler, provides a bit of Rakofsky’s self-proclaimed background, which is enormously impressive for a guy who graduated law school in 2009.

Per Keith Alexander in the Washington Post :
Rakofsky’s Web page on says he specializes in criminal law, DUIs, traffic law, malpractice law and negligence. He lists his firm’s address as 14 Wall St. in Manhattan, but the New York state attorney registration offices have no record of Rakofsky being licensed in New York. Rakofsky, who received his law degree from Touro College in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2009, has been licensed in New Jersey since April 29, 2010.

His lawyersearch profile tells us more.

Mr. Rakofsky has worked on cases involving Murder, Embezzlement, Tax Evasion, Civil RICO, Securities Fraud, Bank Fraud, Insurance Fraud, Wire Fraud, Conspiracy, Money Laundering, Drug Trafficking, Grand Larceny, Identity Theft, Counterfeit Credit Card Enterprise and Aggravated Harassment. Following graduation from law school, he worked for one of the biggest civil litigation firms on the east coast and has worked for boutique white-collar criminal defense firms in Manhattan. During law school, Mr. Rakofsky interned at the Legal Aid Society (in Suffolk County). Prior to studying law, Mr. Rakofsky studied Economics and interviewed at a well-respected investment bank with branches all over the world.  Prior to law school, Mr. Rakofsky earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology, concentrating his attention on DNA.

Impressive, huh?

Yes, indeed. Impressive enough to get him a gig defending murder charges against Dontrell Deaner.  According to his profile, he’s an old hand at defending murder charges, despite the fact that it seems impossible.  But online, anything is possible.  In the courtroom, it’s far more difficult to pull off a lie.

As the  Washington Post notes, it proved to be sufficient to gain that peculiar result, a mistrial for ineffective assistance of counsel. 

“I was astonished someone would represent someone in a murder case who has never tried a case before.”

To put it another way, the judge not only found Rakofsky too incompetent to handle the case, but too dishonest. It goes much farther than mere inexperience and incompetence, but then, deceit is more a personality trait than merely an internet opportunity, so no one should be surprised that Rakofsky’s willingness to lie on the internet is reflected in his character as a lawyer.  You can read the sordid details over at Gamso’s post.  This is heading in a different direction.

It’s not to suggest that every young lawyer is as incompetent or dishonest as Joseph Rakofsky.  Few are quite this bad.  But many lie about themselves just as this mutt did.  Be honest, at least with yourself, and recognize that you are doing everything you can to manufacture a false online persona for one purpose; to make money.  Come on, you can do it. Just admit it to yourself.

Rakofsky didn’t do Dontrell Deaner any good.  But you don’t care about clients, about your getting in over your head and some poor schmuck who was stupid enough to hire you going down the tubes.  You won’t even believe that it’s your fault, pretending instead that he would have gone down no matter what.  Maybe you even say aloud that he was guilty anyway, so no harm, no foul.

But Rakofsky just destroyed his career.  No, this isn’t a problem, at least as far as I’m concerned, but for a new lawyer who will do anything to make a buck, this could present a problem. 

So you don’t really care about clients either.  So you’re only real concern is to make a quick buck, doing anything you have to do.  After all, you’ve got loans to pay, and that justifies anything you have to do.

You aren’t willing to pay the price that Joseph Rakofsky is now going to pay.  The internet will not be kind to Rakofsky, nor should it.  If all works as it should, no client will ever hire Rakofsky again.  Good for clients.  Not so much for Rakofsky, but few will cry about Rakofsky’s career suicide.

Far be it from me to tell a young lawyer that they shouldn’t earn a living.  Far be it from me to tell a young lawyer that they shouldn’t create an unseemly internet persona that gives the appearance of competence and experience where none exists.  It’s not my place to admonish anyone to not take on a paying client when they lacked the competence to properly handle the representation. 

But before you do anything that comes close, think about Joseph Rakofsky.  And know that if you do what he did, I will be happy to make sure that people know about it.  There are probably a few others who will do so as well.  What do you plan to do about those loans when your career is destroyed? 

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. 

22 thoughts on “The Truth Free Zone Eats One Its Own

  1. John Burgess

    Your points are well made. How could one reasonably argue against them?

    What caught me eye, though was this sentence in Rakofsky’s profile: “Mr. Rakofsky studied Economics and interviewed at a well-respected investment bank with branches all over the world.”

    Is that fact that one interviewed for a job so noteworthy that it becomes a selling point? I know that you can still find Indians with business cards that state, “BA Oxon, failed,” but I took that as a measure of desperation. Are (some) lawyers so desperate for attention as to highlight job interviews?

  2. Jon

    From his Facebook Wall
    .Joseph Rakofsky
    ‎1st-Degree Murder…MISTRIAL!

    March 31 at 2:05pm via BlackBerry ·

    (I seriously didn’t make that up)

  3. SHG

    That was particularly noted by Gamso as well.  I guess that he assumes people won’t read too closely or critically, or it’s enough to impress people?  Beats me.  It’s damning with faint praise at best.

  4. SHG

    The marketers are jealous.  They bow to Rakofsky, with his ‎”1st-Degree Murder…MISTRIAL!” spin.  The marketers are in the presence of greatness.

  5. Antonin I. Pribetic

    This is an important teaching moment for reputation management consultants. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. This is an important ostriching moment for reputation management consultants.

  6. Keith Lee

    I can’t imagine the lack of shame involved in conducting oneself in such a manner.

    The Facebook status update is beyond spin. It’s a whirlwind of shit.

  7. Eddie

    Have you taken a look at his website yet? I know you don’t allow links so I won’t post it here but you can get it from his facebook page. Talk about embellishing things a bit. Can’t believe he and his friends are looking at this mistrial as if it is something to be proud of.

  8. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, the sad part is learning that the Criminal Courts are allowed to allow Divorce & Will specialist to represent alleged felons in a jury trial. Makes no sense whatsoever. In this case, it appears the court allowed Rakofsky.

    There’s not much I wouldn’t do in order to see you tear into the one that allowed himself to be interviewed and retained by my mother. His truth zone was his office where she said he had bragged about winning until her glazed over.

    It wasn’t until years later that I learned via Mr. B. that the Harris County District Clerk had sat up an Attorney/Lawyer background website showing that my case was his first and only felony case. Well, he took it all the way to lunch recess that is. Thanks.

  9. Dan

    This sounds like the sort of representation you might get by picking the cheapest lawyer in some sort of on-line auction/beauty contest.

  10. Eddie

    Looks like Mr. CDL Extraordinaire is on to the fact that people are scrutinizing his conduct in this case along with his facebook page as his wall is no longer accessible.

  11. SHG

    That’s why it’s always good to get a screen shot of things that may disappear in the near future.

  12. Nancy

    Interesting. He has offices in four different locations. And before he studied law he studied Economics, but he majored in Biology. He also listed all of his CLE credits. He must be desperate to have something to fill up the empty spaces in his resume.

    At least the judge threw the case out before it went to the jury. It’s not fair to the defendant, but it’s better than having to appeal on the grounds of sloppy legal work.

  13. Steve Magas

    Quote from one of the reader comments to the Post story
    “How did the defendant manage to find this guy out of a million attorneys?”

    …and therein lies the whole internet, social networking, “marketing,” “self-proclaimed expert at the speed of light” problem…you can’t bake a cake with fluff, let alone actually do the WORK of a trial lawyer with it…

  14. Elliott

    He appears to have started his Internet marketing campaign with his YouTube channel: a video of his musicianship (possibly better than his lawyering) is captioned “Playing for drunk law students…it was fun though! Make contact with me (in NYC) after I pass and am admitted to the bar for your criminal defense!”

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