Welcome to The Briefcase

Commentary and analysis of Ohio criminal law and whatever else comes to mind, served with a dash of snark.  Continue Reading »

×

Truth in advertising

I posted this in June of 2009. 

Andy Warhol once remarked that, in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.  My own take is that in the future, everyone will have their own blog.  Or at least every lawyer.  When I started this blog over three years ago, there weren't more than a few others in Ohio; now there are dozens, with several targeted at the criminal defense bar.  Even the big law firms are getting into the act; as Legal Blog Watch notes, over 40% of the top 200 firms now have blogs, up 110% from just two years ago.

Of course, there's a downside:  if you're not careful, you can wind up like Kirk Bernard, a Seattle lawyer whose blogging efforts won him the Asshat Lawyer of the Day award.  That's the fifth hit that comes up when you Google Bernard's name, and is bracketed by another one asking rhetorically whether he's a thief, and one labeling him a slimeball.

Kirk's sin was being a little too aggressive, marketing-wise.  His blogging style differs substantially from mine; instead of insight leavened with heavy doses of snark, Bernard's hews to a strictly formulaic style in which news of some tragic automobile accident (apparently taken verbatim from press reports) is followed by notice that Kirk's firm handles exactly that kind of case.  This reached a nadir the other week with the following post:

A five-year-old Vancouver boy and his parents were in a serious car accident in Washington on Sunday near Chelan. The boy is in critical condition in a Seattle hospital and the crash claimed the life of his parents.

At Bernard Law Group, we handle Seattle personal injury lawsuits that are the results of auto accidents in Washington State every day. Call our attorneys at 1-800-XXX-XXXX. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Interestingly, that post has apparently been removed from the web site.  Not exactly an outlier, though; in his post for May 13, 2009, Kirk upped the ante, apparently figuring that a dead 5-year-old kid was better than one who'd merely been orphaned:  The post opened with the news that "Monday afternoon, just east of Gold Bar, a 5-year-old boy died in a vehicle crash," followed by the same entreaty to consult the Bernard Law Group.

This engendered an outcry from various quarters by lawyers shocked -- shocked - that one of their brethren would attempt to profit from human suffering.  So brazenly, that is.  After all, the difference between Bernard's efforts and those of other attorneys is one of degree, not kind.  A while back I mentioned a Boston criminal firm which adheres to the same technique:  a news story about a man arrested for raping a woman who was found unconscious in a mens room was followed by the firm's eager announcement that "our law firm would be happy to discuss your rape case with you during a free consultation."  And I also mentioned a Chicago law firm which sought divorce clients with an ad featuring a man and woman in an advanced state of undress above the caption, "Life's short.  Get a divorce."

That's just on the web sites and blogs.  Here in Cleveland, a staple of late-night television is ads by a local attorney advising potential personal injury clients that if they sign up with him, he'll take on the insurance company and "make them pay."  Alas, a Lexis search of Ohio publications does not disclose news of his achieving any major settlements or jury verdicts, and a call to a few insurance defense attorneys I know did not elicit a frightened shudder when I mentioned his name.

And then there was the criminal lawyer I once knew who had engraved the following slogan on his business cards:  "Reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee."  Catchy, no?

While the angst over Bernard's brazenness is understandable, it's probably a bit late in the day to inject good taste as a consideration for lawyer advertising.  The whole thing reminds me of one wag's observation that it's too bad 90% of lawyers give the other 10% a bad name.

UPDATE:  Bernard is still doing personal injury work, but the last post on his blog was in October.

Search

Recent Entries

  • March 20, 2017
    Taking time off
    I'm taking the week off. Have a major brief due on Thursday, plus a trial in Federal court starting next Monday. Plus, I'm pretty sure that Obama wiretapped me, too, so I'm working on getting to the bottom of that....
  • March 17, 2017
    What's Up with the 8th?
    The 8th District cases come out every Thursday. By about ten o'clock in the morning, the court will have posted the "weekly decision list" on its web site. It will give a summary of the case, usually in a sentence...
  • March 14, 2017
    Rippo and Pena-Rodriguez
    SCOTUS issues decisions on judicial recusal and biased jurors
  • March 13, 2017
    Case Update
    A SCOTUS decision on career offenders, and appellate cases on what a judge can consider in sentencing, and untimely motions to suppress
  • March 9, 2017
    A switch in time
    The court reverses itself in Gonzalez
  • March 8, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    More sentencing stories, and the right way to handle an Anders brief
  • March 7, 2017
    Case Update
    Knock and announce and the Ohio Constitution, and Anders briefs.
  • March 6, 2017
    Never mind
    The Ohio Supreme Court reverses Gonzalez.
  • March 2, 2017
    Of bright lines and bookbags
    Oral argument in State v. Oles and State v. Polk
  • February 28, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    A good outcome in a search case, probably a good outcome (to be) in a drug case, and a very bad outcome in a child rape case