A Guy Walks Into A Bar . . .

And he says :

Although yodle should not have put a picture on their micro site that would put their client at risk, if I am not mistaken, are you not paying for leads from people searching for your services. Who cares where it came from as long as it brings you a new cusotmer/ ROI.

When Mark Bennett received this comment from James J. McCarthy, IV, “Senior Account Executive of Business Development” at eLocallisting.com, he sent out an email to some friends asking whether they had posted the comment, because it seemed as if someone was goofing on him.  It seemed impossible that anyone would be so mind-bogglingly stupid as to leave a comment like this if they were serious.  And yet, there it was, McCarthy’s contribution.

Regular readers of blawgs like Bennett’s and mine will get the joke.  Some will find it funny.  Most will find it boring and unfunny.  They’ve heard enough of the joke in its many permutations.  “We get it,” the let us know.  “Can’t you move on already and get back to the stuff we like, lying cops, slimy prosecutors and dopey judges.”

Preaching to the choir has its pleasures, such as the positive feedback from those who agree with us when we’re busy picking low-hanging fruit.  There’s a story every day about one of the troika, cops, prosecutors, judges, going wild.  It’s not that we don’t care about readers’ interests, but that it gets tedious to post the same thing, over and over, with only the names changed, unless there’s some point to be made.  If the only point is that there are lying cops, slimy prosecutors and dopey judges out there, then read an old post and pretend it’s new.  It’s already been said.  You got it.  We got it.  Everybody got it.  Would the last guy out please shut off the lights?

But there is a battle going on within the legal profession that won’t interest some readers, but should.  Writing blawg posts may be great fun, and it may even be fun to read them once in a while, but the real deal happens in courts, big and small, around the country where regular people who don’t spend a lot of time reading blawg posts hire lawyers to save them from the system.  As would be expected, many people turn to their computers to help them pick their lawyer, even though it’s far from the best way to do so.  Indeed, it’s likely the worst, in my opinion, but then nobody asked for my opinion.

If you’re a lawyer who has spent years honing his skills, has his head on straight about what we, as criminal defense lawyers, do for our clients and takes personal pride in doing the best work he can, putting honesty and integrity ahead of self-interest, and being effective for your clients rather than bemoaning the injustice in the world, then you need to pay damn close attention.  You are a member of a minority group.

It’s not based on your skin color, ancestry or gender.  It spans all the immutable factors.  It’s the group of lawyers who think that the comment by James J. McCarthy IV is a joke. 

Who cares where it came from as long as it brings you a new cusotmer/ ROI.

New lawyers, digital natives, coming into the fold don’t care.  They care that the phone rings.  Old lawyers discovering the magic of the internet don’t care.  They care that the phone rings.  If the phone isn’t ringing, then they pay someone to perform the magic of SEO juice to raise their search results.  If the phone isn’t ringing, they pay someone to create a website for them, providing a list of reasons why potential new clients should hire them.  Not just that, but why they should hire them rather than you. 

This is a zero-sum game.  If a client hires another lawyer, it means that the client does not hire you.  One lawyer gets a fee.  Another does not.  The basis for getting a fee may be the quality of representation.  It may, however, having nothing to do with the lawyers’ skills, honesty or zeal to defend his client.  It may be based upon the manufacture of a fiction designed to entice clients to select you over another lawyer. 

What’s the difference?  As long as you get the client and do your best, isn’t that all that matters?  Many lawyers who do the dirty wrap themselves up in this rationalization, telling themselves that as long as they do their best, it doesn’t matter how they scored the case.  Like McCarthy, who cares where it came from as long as it brings you a new customer.

cheating scandal has erupted at the University of Central Florida.  Hundreds of students are implicated.  On Good Morning America, some students were interviewed.  One said that there are enough unethical people in business already, and cheating is wrong.  Another said everybody cheats, and getting ahead by any means available is all that matters.  These are our children talking.  Who do you want to be right?

The legal profession is at a crossroads.  Maybe past the crossroads, but some of us hope not so far past that we can’t change course.  The implications reach well beyond any individual case.  They strike at the core of what we, as lawyers, do, and at the very justification for our existence.  If we, as a profession, give up internal integrity for the next legal fee, then every curse ever uttered about lawyers is absolutely right.

There will always be outliers to ethics, to honesty, to integrity.  As long as they are outliers, we can address them on an ad hoc basis, if we have the will to do so.  The shift on the internet has been that honest lawyers are now the outliers.  And if this trend is not stopped, is not reversed, we will be exactly what people think we are.  We will be the joke.

And that’s why guys like Bennett and I keep boring you with this stuff.  I’m sorry if it doesn’t make you laugh or cry, but your entertainment is not my primary concern.

7 comments on “A Guy Walks Into A Bar . . .

  1. Jonathan Hansen

    I’m not bored, and I don’t read Simple Justice for entertainment. This “the end justifies the means”, or cheating thingey, has become pretty pervasive, from police “testilying”, prosecutor misconduct, even to the erosion of the Fourth with Leon and Herring, and the ever expanding list of exceptions, to say nothing of the economic realm. When what are supposed to be the bulwarks succumb, it’s easy to see why the up and coming embrace it as necessary, even if technically verboten.

    I seriously doubt that nobody has ever asked for your opinion, though.

  2. tab

    I don’t think most folks in my generation of attorneys (maybe my generation in general) care about ethics or integrity. I mean these are the folks who cheated their way through high school, college, and law school. Hours padding is rampant and so is unneeded aggression and strategic cluelessness. Of course, all lawyers, young and old do those three things in my limited experience.

    So why would these esteemed folks care whether a website/marketing firm knows or cares about the ethical rules of the legal profession?

    I think you’re asking too much of them. Business has trumped professionalism.

    As you can see, I’m pretty jaded about the whole thing.

  3. Albert Nygren

    Thanks for telling us of this problem. I knew it existed but I didn’t know it was as widespread as you say. It may explain something I saw in the O.J. Trial that I couldn’t believe I was seeing. I know everyone thinks O.J. was guilty but I won’t talk about that as it would be off topic. What I saw was an exhibit by the prosecution that was was an obvious plant.

    [Ed. Note: Balance of post deleted as too long and off topic.]

  4. SHG

    Albert, take a look at the content and length of your comment.  Take a look at the narrow scope of the post. Ask yourself, does the content of your comment relate directly to the post?

    This is not an opportunity for you to go off into the blue, at great length, on a tangential topic that interests you.  If you want to do that, start your own blog, but don’t use up my bandwidth because you want to discuss OJ. It contributed nothing to the discussion here. Last chance.  Please don’t do it again.

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