Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

I can hear what’s running through your head all the way up here in New York.

So you screwed up.  You played in a sandbox you thought you understood. You hired some slimebags to create and manage an online presence in order to market your way to prominence, and left them to do their job. They did, and did it in a way that blew up in your face.

You don’t think of yourself as a bad guy. You think you’re pretty good. Maybe even better than pretty good, even if others don’t appreciate you yet.  Why would anybody try to beat up on a good guy like you?  Why are other people so mean, so angry, that they would go after you as if you told them their baby was ugly or ran over their dog?

It was no big deal.  You didn’t care. It was just some fluff that the guys in Bangalore put on your website to fill the empty white space.  It wasn’t Moby Dick, for crying out loud. You don’t see why it’s a problem to begin with, and you certainly don’t see why it’s a big enough problem for anybody to make a hullaballoo about.  They need to get a life. You have one, in court. That’s where lawyers spend their days. And you’re a lawyer. A L-A-W-Y-E-R, and they must be losers to spend their days worrying about what guys in Bangalore do instead of being more like you.

And it was one of your own!  Is he nuts? Doesn’t he realize this is all a game, a con, a way to market so that a kid can create a presence on the internet to get business?  So what if it’s all bullshit. That’s what marketing is. It’s supposed to be bullshit, and one of your own is supposed to get it.  He may not like it, but we don’t call each other out. We cover each other’s butts. We say nice things about each other, even if we don’t know each other.

What we do not do, what we never do, is let the clients know about the con. Like a magician doesn’t tell how another magician does a trick, a lawyer doesn’t tell how another lawyer did wrong. We don’t do that.

What we do is write praise for each other on the internet. We pay the guys in Bangalore to write something nice for another lawyer, and they have their guys in Bangalore write something nice about us. We all benefit from the game. So what if its all a big lie. This is the internet. This is how we market ourselves. That’s what being a lawyer is all about.

You’re thinking, if you have a problem with me, then you owe it to me to talk to me first. You have no right, none, to screw with my practice, my carefully crafted and expensive internet marketing scheme, without being man enough to come to me. How dare you just call me out? You’re a coward and an asshole. Real men do what I want them to do.  No real man would screw with another guy’s marketing scheme without talking to them, man to man, first.

And if you’re going to be a coward and an asshole, then don’t be surprised that I’m going to be one right back at you, and let you know how I’m going to kick your ass. So what if it’s a bit over the top with first aid kits, you get the point. Don’t pretend you don’t. You screw with my honor and I’m going to prove to you and the world that I’m a man. A Texan. And men in Texas don’t take scrap from you Yankees without a fight. You want a fight? You got one.

I heard from Bennett, telling me that I’m wrong and I should apologize to you.  Does he think I’m stupid? Do you think I’m stupid? I know how the internet works better than you ever will.  The guys in Bangalore explained it all to me, and they’re working right now to destroy you. They know a million times more than losers like you will ever know. They know how to make me the king of the internet, and I will look down on you and laugh.

So you think a few DR violations worry me? That’s what marketing is, you moron. The Texas bar couldn’t care less. They get it. They know the con, even if you’re too stupid to realize it. In Texas, we know that you’ve got to break a few rules to get the loot, and nobody at the Texas bar is going to worry about a little puffery if it brings in the business.

And my video is racist?  Are you kidding? I couldn’t care less about black or white. That’s the sort of thing you northern Yankee bleeding-heart, hand-wringing liberals worry about. I only care about green, and I go where the green is. That’s why I’m a success and you’re a loser.

So in conclusion, you can kiss my ass because I will win. I will win the internet. I will eat you up and spit you out. I will win!!!

Dear Carl,

It reaches a point where the hole is so deep that I begin to feel badly about it. As criminal defense lawyers, we are all about redemption, learning a lesson and walking away from the hole.  Sure, what’s happened has happened, and in your case, reflects an ignorance so palpable as to be deeply disturbing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wake up this morning, recognize that you’ve made a terrible mistake and try your best to fix it.

That’s what real men do, Carl.

This is about you, but it’s about much more than you. You have made yourself a prime example for the many lawyers who don’t realize that the practice of law isn’t a con, that the internet isn’t an ethics-free zone.  From your mistakes, others will learn. Maybe your conduct will save other lawyers. Hopefully, it will save clients who might otherwise fall for the con.

Whether you can be saved, Carl, is entirely up to you. It always has been. Nobody woke up this morning thinking of ways to hurt Carl David Ceder.  And nobody has hurt Carl David Ceder more than you.  You can stop it at any time.  It begins with the word “sorry.”


31 thoughts on “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

  1. David Tarrell

    One of the most fun/frustrating things about trial practice is that some witnesses, when handed a shovel, just keep digging and seem to be the only ones who don’t grasp that continuing to dig is not the way out to get out the hole they created for themselves. It’s even more pathetic to witness this when the digger claims to be an expert at getting people out of holes and “off” of charges. Wow. I didn’t think it could get much worse but that video is just… Wow. It’s not really the Streisand Effect if you put something out there that you want circulated, but, as the girl who put out the “Friday” video should have taught us, something that you thought could make you rich/famous can just as quickly make you infamous.

    1. SHG Post author

      It can be very hard, especially for someone lacking in metacognitive skills, to realize that they’re in a hole and digging. But that’s why Bennett’s having taken the time and effort to explain life to the kid was important. But having had the opportunity to speak with a far more experienced, more knowledgeable and more important Texas lawyer, and still not getting the message, can’t be excused.

      1. Dissent

        Ego is healthy. Until it’s not. Just as doctors need to learn to acknowledge errors and apologize for harms or mistakes, this young lawyer would benefit from learning that important lesson.

        Carl: Face isn’t worth saving if it’s not a face of integrity. This is an opportunity for you to grow as a professional – if you recognize and embrace the opportunity. Saying “I was wrong” isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

        I hope you think more about Mark Bennett’s advice and the opening Scott’s given you here in this post, take a deep breath, and step up to the plate. You might be surprised at the response.

      2. An anonymous coward

        Scott, you read his earlier crap. Why would he listen to an experienced attorney when he stated called you a burnout because you’re experienced? From his comments it looks to me that he considers experience a liability, not an asset.

        1. SHG Post author

          I think he’s doing what many young, butthurt, pig-headed kids do, he’s fighting for his honor and throwing whatever pops into his head against the wall to see what will stick. I’m his bad guy, and I attributed his cluelessness to his youth, so his retort may be foolish, but it’s understandable. Tell someone their baby is ugly and they’ll tell you yours is too.

          It’s of no consequence. This is how children fight back.

  2. A Not-New Lawyer

    As an attorney who practices criminal defense, Mr. Ceder’s actions give me quite a bit of concern. Time machines have yet to be invented. Our clients are not all innocent. The one thing we can’t do as attorneys is turn back the clock in order to undo what has already been done.

    What can we do? We can help our client’s do what is best starting at the point in time they come to see us. (Assuming we haven’t wasted the first hour trying to convince them to hire us because we have catchy superhero nicknames and logos.)

    Mr. Ceder was in the same position as most of his clients. He got caught doing something he should not have done – something that could result in bad consequences. And what did he do in light of this? He utilized the worst strategy possible and dug his hole much deeper. I cannot tell you concerning this is to me.

    The truth is, every case is unique. What is best for one client is not by definition best for another. For example, sometimes it is best to play nice with the prosecutor. Sometimes it is best not to. Good criminal defense attorneys don’t worry about their image and their next fee. They worry about what’s best for their client. Yet when you look at Mr. Ceder’s marketing, he appears to believe that a “one size fits all” approach has its merits.

    Mr. Ceder, based on what I have read on this blog, has shown an absolute lack of ability to formulate adaptive strategies after getting into hot water. If he can’t even do this when his own ass is on the line, I have no reason to think that he can do it when another’s ass is on the line.

    Mr. Ceder is myopic. As an example, his website highlights a “success story” wherein he states: “The state officials helping secure the conviction, from the court reporter to the prosecuting attorneys, all held a certain resentment for the client, as well as towards Carl.” If we set aside Carl’s complete lack of understanding of the role of a court reporter (was he working on his cartoon marketing videos during his first year of law school?), his narrative suggests that there was no reason for these officials to resent Mr. Ceder. It appears quite clear from the narrative that they resented him because he was an ass-hat engaging in grade school puffery. I’ve had prosecutors not like my tactics. But I’ve never had them resent me for using those tactics. This is because I can TALK to a prosecutor, rather than being focused on performance as marketing shtick. I ask you, would you like to have Ceder as your attorney the NEXT time he is in front of this prosecutor? As a former prosecutor, I can assure you that defense attorneys we found to be decent people were much more likely to get our respect and attention – some of whom were our toughest foes.

    IMHO, Mr. Ceder thinks his clients are stupid. He thinks that a superhero logo will open their wallets. He thinks clients are too dumb to notice in his marketing videos that he has trouble memorizing more than one sentence of dialogue.

    And maybe it has worked for Mr. Ceder. Maybe he makes a lot of money because he has found a way to harvest the low hanging fruit. But that is where his career will remain. A urinal-advertising fool. He’s welcome to it if he wants.

    1. SHG Post author

      You raise a lot of the same concerns that I have. A question that continues to trouble me is how pervasive this view of the law is among new lawyers. I fear it’s far more so than we know, and that Carl has made himself the poster boy only because he’s been so overt about it.

      1. Marc R

        Scott, don’t blame this on “young lawyers.” Old, young, I’ve seen horrible lawyers and generally people of bad character regardless of age. I know you love the “slackoise” but I haven’t seen quality dependent upon age. Bad people generally have those same qualities when they enter the courtroom or the internet. In fact, a young lawyer is more likely to engage is general internet bullshit rather than have the time to pay for a website. Maybe this particular character is young, but his actions and thoughts aren’t bad because of his age, bu rather because of the way he thinks. There’s plenty of great hardworking young lawyers, and a lot of non-lawyers read this site and it’s a disservice to let them think this is strictly a chronological issue instead of one of character defects.

        1. SHG Post author

          No, it’s not strictly a chronological issue. And it may well be, in this instance, a character defect. But certain of the attitudes, entitlement, narcissism are endemic. This, however, is not the focus today.

    2. Joe

      Leaving aside the ethical problems, Mr. Ceder’s website and actions are simply bad for his business. I’m still a new attorney (about 6 years of practicing), but when I was brand new, a mentor – probably the smartest lawyer I’ve ever known – pulled me aside and gave what I think is the best advice I could receive. He told me that my integrity was the most important asset I would ever have as a lawyer, and that I should protect it at all costs. That meant being completely and unimpeachably honest in all communications with everyone. That meant never doing anything that could possibly be viewed as “hiding the ball”. The reason for this went beyond the ethics, though the ethics are incredibly important. It came down to the fact that interactions with others are a lawyer’s real skills. I was a prosecutor at the time, and my mentor told me that everyone simply had to know that if i said something it was true. The strength of my integrity is what would allow me to be able to negotiate with opposing counsel. It was what would allow me to plead my strongest case to judges. It also helped with the little things – if I asked for a continuance because a witness was stuck at work, the judge was more likely to grant it because she knew I wasn’t just stalling.

      This was undoubtedly true in reverse when i dealt with defense attorneys. I knew who was honest, and if that defense attorney came to me with a problem in one of my cases, I was much more likely to closely examine it than if the comment came from a guy who complained about all my cases, sometimes with a valid complaint but often not.

      I’m no longer practicing criminal law, but a reputation for honesty will always help. And, as my mentor pointed out, once that reputation is gone, it’s almost impossible to get it back.

      It’s too bad that Mr. Ceder’s mentor doesn’t appear to have given him similar advice.

  3. Kris

    Did he just declare that he would win the internet? I think he did. God help us all, I really think he did.

    1. SHG Post author

      That wasn’t him. That was me channeling him to make a point. Please don’t hold him accountable for what I say.

  4. Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for calling out Ceder, it needed to be done.

    I wonder whether the stuff like he did is the new normal for lawyers. You and I grew up in a time when there were different norms and certainly different expectations for what was required of a lawyer. Is our time passing? Like it or not, are the kids with the new norms going to run things now? Are guys like you, me, and others just brushed off as old grumudgeons when we call out bad behavior?

    Have a good weekend.

    1. SHG Post author

      As you know, I often write about the kids, or the Slackoisie as I call them, but then there are others who share our concerns, hard work, integrity and dignity. My suspicion is that there is a war being quietly fought within the ranks of new lawyers, with some taking the easy ethical road and others taking the old school path. It seems to me that there is a huge impact of the cries of certain gurus about tech disruption, marketing being the only path to success and how ethics just gets in the way of innovation and is being used by us curmudgeons to keep the competition away.

      We have plenty of low-thought, magic-bullet, entitled screaming and whining, but not too many who are willing to do the heavy-lifting of scrutinizing and, god forbid, saying that something sucks when it does. Everybody wants to be a happy guy so others will love them. That means they can’t say anything about bad behavior, and instead join the race to the bottom so they aren’t left behind.

      1. Victor Medina

        I’m twelve years out of school, so I’m not sure if I’m a new lawyer or not. To tell you the truth, I still feel like a new lawyer.

        For me, feeling like a new lawyer means a few things like, (1) holy crap, I better make sure I’m not screwing up because a new lawyer doesn’t know anything, and (2) jeez, it’d be nice if there was someone who has been here before who is willing to help me out – I should go ask, and (3) thank god, one of those older lawyers was nice enough to share with me his thoughts – I should probably listen to him or her because he’s an old lawyer and I’m a new lawyer.

        But, I had that attitude the moment I stepped out of law school (with my ink-still-drying-on-it license) and spent a year getting my ass handed to me by the judge for whom I was clerking. Then, I moved to a large law firm where I spent another 3 years getting my ass handed to me by the senior attorneys that I was working for. Then, I left to start my own practice and I was lucky enough to find an old partner who let me buy his practice and mentored me during the transition. That meant another year and a half of getting my ass handed to me (mostly on Friday afternoons beginning at 4:30pm and lasting until he was tired and wanted to get home).

        Now that I’m on my own, I’m worried that I don’t have someone to hand me my ass on a regular basis. I have to go seek that out.

        And the attitude doesn’t come from a lack of confidence or ego. If anything, it’s a direct result of my healthy ego. I know that my confidence might lead me into a real mess. That’s bad enough for me, but “avoid at all costs” for my client – who trusts me, who I have accepted responsibility for doing the right thing for.

        I’ve taken the long journey from making no money at what I’m doing to making more money that I know what do with and it was really touch and go there a few times. I ran up debt as I tried to keep myself afloat, I celebrated “wins” of signing new clients and getting some money again (and getting some breathing space).

        No matter what the financial situation, I was never tempted to mess with client money, or take on something that I wasn’t qualified to do, or lie about myself…and each of those decisions meant less money in my pocket (in the short term). It meant I had to stare my family dead in the face about whether my firm would make it financially. It meant I had to face down the very question that faces all new lawyers – “Are you about being a lawyer?” OR “Are you about making money?”

        I suppose my thoughts here don’t have a lot to do with saying “sorry”, but it has a lot to do with humility, and how you go about this life (as a lawyer or in general). I wonder if it’s possible to learn humility, or will you always reject that lesson (no matter how many times life tries to teach it to you)?

        I consider myself lucky that people care enough about me that they try to help me learn to be better. That’s it.

  5. Pingback: Can You Say I’m Sorry | That Mr. G Guy's Blog

  6. Michael

    If he had just owned up and apologized for not supervising his marketing people better, he could have come out of this with a win. Everyone can respect a person who recognizes a mistake and learns a lesson. If done skillfully, he could have gained the respect of many people whose respect is worth having. Instead, he has chosen to become a cautionary tale. How unfortunate.

  7. John Barleycorn

    60:1 ; and even money on the what if bets Sunday. Parlays will pay upwards of 475:1. The window will open at noon on Monday.

    Mothers of Invention…I say! Fit but in the spirt of the Fugs I must go parallel
    seeing as how I am booking the silly putty.


  8. Jake DiMare

    The part of this epic saga I’m still hung up on the need for so many individual first aid kits. I mean, what if, hypothetically, you just brought 1 really big first aid kit to Texas? Wouldn’t that suffice? Perhaps your interlocutor should, at the risk of being more comically verbose, just be more specific about the contents of the first aid kit which would be sufficient to care for an individual on the receiving end of the can of Texas whoop-ass he plans to open.

    1. SHG Post author

      Frankly, I agree with the sentiment that he should provide the first aid kit(s), since he’s the one whose conduct would give rise to their need. It would be the polite thing to do.

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