It finally happened.
The lying that has become marketing was brought to light in the story of an "experienced" criminal defense lawyer. He took on a murder case a week after his admission to the bar, and got a mistrial. His internet marketing was good enough to convince those looking for experienced criminal defense lawyers that he was the one, but the judge was not convinced.
The mistrial was granted out of disgust with the lawyer's conduct, and so in true millenial marketers fashion, the lawyer posted on his Facebook page "MISTRIAL!," congratulating himself, as his fans joined in the chorus.
The sordid story began over the weekend, but exploded in the blawgosphere yesterday, right in the middle of the 2011 Legal Marketers Association Annual Conference.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer's email listserv buzzed all throughout the day on the topic. From one member:
The conduct of this person, I cannot bring myself to call him a lawyer, is without doubt reprehensible. But I am forced to a much larger question. How did he get to this point? Measuring my professional life now in decades, I cannot comprehend his apparent lack of comprehension of his situation. To be told by a judge that you are not competent to the extent you are being dismissed from a case would be mortifying (an old dinosaur term) to me.
Is there some fundamental flaw which is afflicting our profession by which young lawyers are unable to see such clear problems, whether it is a Murder I as your first trial or representing two defendants with conflicting needs?
We need to do something. I tell my clerks and interns this is not law school. "We deal with real people whose lives and freedom are on the line by what we do or don't do. If you cannot commit to the level of effort required, then go do something else.
From another fellow criminal defense lawyer:
And, all the while, he ends up screwing his client by, first, stealing his money and, then, by guaranteeing that his client spends ANOTHER year in jail before he can have his days in court. Yeah, it's just great that the judge called a mistrial. A gross miscarriage of justice was averted, but all justice will continue to be averted for another year. I have a better idea than bringing this charlatan up on ethics charges: Let the client out of jail and let the lawyer (if he is, in fact, a lawyer) go pull the time until the trial actually concludes. After that, he can get out and go back to his several offices and face the music for what he did to this client. But, of course, that will not happen.
You know, we joke about this and laugh and shake our heads and wonder just how this can happen. We speculate that the defendant was taken in by the web site for this huckster. We are hopeful that some bar association or supreme court will do something to stop this insanity before someone pays for a bad decision (of whom to hire for legal representation) with his or her life. But, all good criminal defense lawyers are tarnished by this sort of gross misconduct. It is no wonder the general public, and the producers/writers/directors/actors of movies and TV shows think so little of who we are and what we do. It is no wonder we all get painted with the same brush that is going to be used to tar (before feathering) this incompetent. We should be outraged at this and demand that New York or New Jersey or Connecticut take some action to stop this train wreck.
At the legal marketers conference, one of the speakers had this to say:
Today I came here to discuss what you all want to hear - that we need to better educate lawyers on the power of the internet, that social media marketing is the future and that marketing, and you as a marketer, is the greatest friend a lawyer can have. But I cannot do that today, because today it has all exploded in our face. We look like scam artists. We look like hucksters. So today, as I talk to you about this lawyer who lied his way to clients pocketbooks, I am going to talk about why this is not where we want to be and why we need to temper our marketing zeal with more ethics than flash.
Actually, that never happened. The talk of the internet yesterday, the unethical marketing that caused a mistrial in a murder case, never came up. It never-came-up.
Instead the marketers said:
Enjoying my beer and the conversation at #LMA11
Dinner at Emeril's. Amazing food, ridiculous wine and fantastic company. BAM!! #LMA11
Relaxing at the yacht club bar #LMA11
You can't make everybody happy. Somebody will be mad at you everyday. #lma11
Yes, the marketers took the opportunity, on a day where their advice and strategies were the talk of the internet, to say nothing.
Everything about marketing must remain positive, nothing critical, nothing negative, just pay the cash and get clients. They don't worry about your ethics, and don't want you worried about theirs.
But I hear the candy at booth 32 is yummy.
Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Post to Twitter
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