Undignified, Demeaning, Disbarred, Revisited

Almost ten years ago, I called out a marketeer* who showed up in the comments at SJ to smooth over the gap between elitist lawyers who disdained the then-current fad of online legal marketing and the new lawyers who saw the internet as a way to shamelessly promote their wares.

It took time to hone their legal chops, gain the skills that would attract clients and establish their bona fides as good lawyers. It took no time at all to hire a marketeer who would create a persona to distinguish a young lawyer from the pack. There was one inherent problem, that there was no legitimate basis to claim any distinction, so they would basically bullshit their way around such arcane ethical prohibitions as not lying, conceal relevant facts like their admission a month before, and lay claim to being the most trustworthy, empathetic and experienced lawyer ever. I was highly intolerant of the scheme. I still am. Lying is lying, and this was all about fudging the edges of deception.

So when the marketeer appeared here to try to weasel his way between reality and bullshit, I was harsh in my condemnation. Of all places to come to rationalize why it was totally reasonable for lawyers to wear hot pants, SJ was a particularly poor choice.

Go sell your sleaze elsewhere.  Do you really feel compelled to push the envelope here so that I’m forced to call you an unmitigated whore and utter disgrace.  Go find some gutter to wallow and stay away from here.

Soon thereafter, I received an email from a lawyer, David Allen Hiersekorn, in support of his dear friend and paid marketeer, taking me to task for my attack

Your attack on Mark was undignified and demeaning to the legal profession.  You engaged in baseless name-calling and – surprisingly for a lawyer – you did not present any argument to support your position.  It was simply a tantrum.  Because you completely failed to support your point, I had to read some of your other writing to get a feel for your position on these matters.  Based on the statements on the main pages of your website, I think I have a pretty good feel for where your anger is coming from.

In a nutshell, it appears that you believe you are significantly better than other attorneys, and you dislike lawyer advertising because it frustrates your ability to advertise your superiority free from other “lesser” souls making competing claims.

He concludes:

So, rather than bemoan the sad state of legal marketing, I would suggest you take a look in the mirror and recognize that you are participating in the activities you claim to dislike.  The only difference is that you feel entitled to your message.

In the end, it is merely ego.  You have personally decided that you are good enough to advertise, while others are not.

He’s referring to my website, which hasn’t changed, other than things like addresses, since then. I posted his email here and solicited reaction. The comments are particularly fascinating to read years later,** and may both sound familiar today and give you some insight into how long I’ve been hearing the same stuff. It may give you an idea why the novelty has worn off.

I received an email yesterday from Matt Coker at the OC Weekly that included this:

Placentia resident David Allen Hiersekorn, license number 237471, was disbarred July 26, 2017, and ordered to notify his clients of the discipline and make restitution. The state bar found Hiersekorn, 48, had misappropriated more than $210,000 from a living trust he was hired to oversee. The state bar said Hiersekorn failed to participate in its prosecution of the matter.

Looking back, two points remain as true today as they did then. Integrity is something you either have or don’t, and it follows you throughout all your dealings. And I was a mean curmudgeon then and remain so today. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If, by the way, you want to seize upon this post to take me to task for running SJ my way rather than your way, go for it.

*The marketer was Mark Merenda, who was well-regarded by his clients, but still a marketer. He has since passed away.

**At the time, the comments were nested. When I changed platforms years ago and moved things over, the nesting was lost. Sorry about that.

In the comments to the post about Hiersekorn’s email, you’ll see the name Grant Griffiths. At the time, he was one of the early lawyer/marketers, someone who promoted his legal marketing business by saying he was a lawyer who decided to leave the profession, but who understood the ethical and practical demands of lawyers. Grant was a great guy. He was not, however, entirely truthful about his status or how he came to be a legal marketer.

18 comments on “Undignified, Demeaning, Disbarred, Revisited

  1. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    Thanks for the SJ History lesson. It makes no sense why people would come to your house and criticize how you run things. Why expect anything different anyway?

    Your position on marketing and the commodification of our role is interesting. Why stop only there in cleaning our noble profession of the stench? Taking money for our services is beneath us too. There’s the base motivation giving rise to all of this. If you don’t want lesser lawyers marketing, kill the market.

    It’s hard to not feel like a whore when I know I can represent someone who is destitute, but don’t or can’t or both. I’d rather date the yuppie moneybags too. Smoked wings aren’t free.

    Much love,
    PK

    1. SHG Post author

      There is an actual way to think thoughtfully about the profession which would prevent you from taking that orthogonal leap down the rabbit hole:

      We become lawyers to serve our clients. We go to work in the morning to earn a living. The two are not incompatible.

      As for why people who read and comment are of the view that I should do it their way, I can’t explain. Not now. Not then.

  2. B. McLeod

    When I became a lawyer, lawyer advertising was not a thing. In my opinion, it has been one of the worst developments in the profession, ever. Each morning as I watch the news over breakfast, I can count on seeing TV commercials for at least five different small law firms. The bulk of these are for personal injury practices, and a few advertise criminal defense practices. Almost uniformly, the commercials provide the viewer no basis to make an informed decision about the quality of service likely to be provided by the advertising lawyers.

      1. B. McLeod

        And well you should. I do think Internet sites and regular columns can give people a better idea than the TV spots as to whether a particular lawyer knows anything about a particular subject. For example, in the course of reading the weekly columns of the person writing as “Shannon Achimalbe,” even a lay reader could glean that the author of those columns is either not a lawyer at all, or a lawyer of very limited abilities who would be unlikely to handle a legal matter very well.

        Unfortunately, when people are looking for representation, they are more likely to go to some crapshoot Internet “rating” site than to read a selection of substantive things lawyers have written.

          1. B. McLeod

            I have never “claimed my profile,” and recently noted that my “rating” was the same as the “rating” they assigned a colleague who was in federal custody for some unfortunate child porn issues (nothing in his “rating” gave notice of this).

  3. Jamison

    Ah, the good old days of the blogosphere. It was fun to read comments from years ago with familiar people, voices and viewpoints. If you will blast me for posting a comment without any substance whatsoever, my nostalgic reverie will be complete.

  4. Sgt. Schultz

    I was particularly moved by the comment from the baby lawyer telling you what you are competent to write about and what you really suck at. I was not, however, aware that the baby lawyers were already so entitled as to call an old lawyer like you arrogant in 2008. Baby lawyers are so smart.

  5. Jake

    Wah! We shouldn’t have to spend money on marketing because it’s expensive and hard! And it makes some other professional a few bucks instead of buying us a second home in the Hamptons! Wah!

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