Why, I Do Believe I Have Been Subjected To A Note Of Sarcasm!

So I got some comment spam from a Canadian law firm. It was typically incoherent but unusually open about pimping the firm in question.

Rather than write about them immediately in an uncomplimentary way, I decided to write them and ask for a comment.

Gentlemen:

I write regarding comment spam apparently directed by your firm.

I am a lawyer and blogger in Los Angeles. Like other lawbloggers in my circle, one of my favored topics is bad marketing by lawyers. One example of bad marketing is comment spam: the use of computer programs to send thousands of irrelevant and often incoherent spam comments onto blogs across the internet in an attempt to promote a website.

I recently received comment spam promoting your firm at my site. The comment said: [deleted out of misplaced sense of mercy so you won't Google it.] Yes, it was like that in the original.

Would you like to make any comment before I write about this, as I have written about other comment spammers? (See, e.g., http://www.popehat.com/2011/10/10/too-seldom-is-the-question-asked-who-are-be-defensing-our-criminals/)

In particular, I would like a comment on (1) whether anyone with [Canuk, Snowy & Censorious LLP] authorized this comment spam campaign, and (2) if not, the identity of the marketing firm that conducted it on your behalf.

Thanks,

Etc.

Shortly I got a reply.

Hello Mr. White;
I thank you very much for your considerate feedback.
Yes we had been using someone to do some website promotion
for us. Although they assured us that they were not automating
anything, this is the second complaint we have received and
will proceed to terminate their services.

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you and your
reputable firm.

Warmest regards,
Etc.

Why, I do believe that fellow had a tone.

Anyway, remember: outsource your marketing, outsource your reputation and ethics.

I Never Promised You Neutrality

Just got our first comment spam from a lawyer who is also a friend and colleague.

So I wrote him instead of outing him immediately.

Sorry. I never said I was a Fair Witness. But rest assured I will mock him mercilessly in private, and try to convince him to out and humiliate his marketeer.

Throwing The Marketeers Under the Bus

We name and shame lawyers here.

Some of them we name and shame because they act badly in various public arenas. Many of those are probably irredeemable.

Others we name and shame because of their marketing techniques — because they market by comment spam or other detestable tactics, or because they fail to supervise marketeers who do so on their behalf. Those people are generally redeemable. When we do so, we generally make this offer:

By the way, I'll make [lawyer] and his law firm the following offer: I will scrub this post of data identifying him and his firm on two conditions. First condition, he must make a sincere apology for outsourcing his reputation and ethics (or, if he did this deliberately himself, a sincere apology to the English language and to defendants everywhere). Second condition, he must provide emails or other documentation identifying the marketeer he hired who produced the comment spam and proving their responsibility for this, so that we can alter the post to call them out by name. Because lawyers who hire bad marketeers have bad judgment, but bad marketeers are vermin, and ought to be stomped.

This works. For an example of it working, see this post by Eric Turkewitz. As originally drafted, it named and shamed a law firm that had scraped an entire post by him — reprinted it shamelessly on its own website. But the firm named its marketeer, and Turkewitz named the marketeer and removed the unflattering references to the firm. The law firm will hopefully learn to supervise its marketeers, and the marketeers — well, there's not much hope for them, frankly.

So. Read Turkewitz' post. Beware of marketeers like "The U Agency." And remember that when you outsource marketing, you outsource your reputation and ethics.

It's Time To Ask: Have We Adequately Investigated The Link Between Attorney Comment Spam And Masturbation-Aid Devices?

I've quoted Eric Turkewitz many, many times when discussing comment spam: when you outsource your legal marketing, you outsource your reputation and your ethics.

Today's example: John L. Davis PLLC, a law firm in Vancouver, Washington. Recently someone left the following comment spam on this post:

Right here is the perfect site for anyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that's been written about for a long time. Great stuff, just excellent!

Now, while it's technically true that the post that drew this comment might establish that it is tough to argue with me, I rather quickly identified this as spam.

The comment spam had a spam link back to the Davis site. Here's a screenshot. Click to enlarge:

Google shows us that this same insipid comment text is popular, and has been used frequently for a variety of spam subjects. This might mean that it is "stock text" contained in some spam software, or that some particular marketing subcontractor favors it, or that it is on a list of suggested spam comments on some forum frequented by ESL spammers.

I note, for instance, that the exact same comment language is being used on this thread at a dance studio to promote something called the "Autoblow," a masturbation-aid device. Click to enlarge:

Now, I am not suggesting that the law firm John L. Davis PLLC of Vancouver, Washington is deliberately associating itself with masturbation devices. Not that there's something wrong if they were. (I mean, times are tough in the legal field. Those things have to throw off some patent, trademark, and personal injury work.) Nor am I suggesting that the Davis firm had a brainstorming session about online marketing at which someone said "you know what advertising campaign REALLY works for me? The Autoblow."

Nope, I seriously doubt anyone at the Davis firm decided that comment spamming was a good way to promote their credibility. Rather, I think that they hired a marketeer to conduct "search engine optimization" or "online marketing" or the like, and failed to supervise that marketeer or grasp what they were doing, and the marketeer outsourced some of the work to someone who tried to promote the Davis firm using the same comment-spam methods — in fact, the exact same text — also used for a masturbation device.

When you hire a marketeer to do anything remotely related to the internet, and you don't understand what they are doing, and you don't watch them like a hawk, this will happen to you. When you outsource your marketing to the modern snake-oil salesmen, you outsource your reputation and ethics, until both will auto-blow.

I sent an inquiry to the Davis firm seeking comment and got no response. I offer them what I offer all such firms: apologize for the comment spam, and identify the marketeers responsible, and I'll scrub the post of mentions of you.

Too Seldom Is The Question Asked: Who Are Be Defensing Our Criminals?

Here at Popehat we like calling out lawyers who attempt to promote themselves by spamming blogs with inane comments designed to enhance search engine rankings. Spam comments nominally promoting lawyers demonstrate what lawbloggers have been saying over and over: when you outsource your marketing to Web 2.0's snake-oil salesmen, you outsource your reputation and your ethics.

Ultimately watching for attorney comment spam gets dull. So many of them are alike. But now and then you'll see a real gem. Courtesy of Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice, today we have this one, which was left on a TSA post rather tangential to criminal defense:

________________________________________
Comment:
i think defensing the criminal is such a great thing. The criminals must have legal rights to hire advocates. I am a criminal lawyer and my office is Detroit criminal Lawyer
________________________________________

This delightful spam comment ostensibly promotes a law firm in the Midwest.

Some protips, Midwest Law Firm: (1) "Defensing" is not a word.

Not to be confused with defenestrating, which is more satisfying but leads to fewer referals.

(2) Professional defense attorneys generally avoid repeatedly referring to people accused of crimes as "criminals," as that is the government's job.

And finally: (3) Midwest Law Firm, I want to believe that you didn't draft that yourself. God, I want to believe that, even though you include an attorney who proclaims himself a marketing expert. But if I do believe it, then I also have to believe that you turned over your firm's marketing, or "web presence", or "social media position," or some other vapid terminology of the month, to some slick-talking marketing stooge. That stooge is either himself a sub-literate idiot (because he thinks that "defensing" is a word, and because he thinks that comment spam works), or he is taking your firm's reputation and ethics and re-outsourcing them to someone who barely speaks English. The comment spam does nothing to improve your firm's search engine rankings; it just leaves drivel droppings across the web making you look like a moron. Fire your marketeer forthwith. Use a shovel if necessary.

By the way, I'll make the Midwest Law Firm the following offer: I will scrub this post of data identifying him and his firm on two conditions. First condition, he must make a sincere apology for outsourcing his reputation and ethics (or, if he did this deliberately himself, a sincere apology to the English language and to defendants everywhere). Second condition, he must provide emails or other documentation identifying the marketeer he hired who produced the comment spam and proving their responsibility for this, so that we can alter the post to call them out by name. Because lawyers who hire bad marketeers have bad judgment, but bad marketeers are vermin, and ought to be stomped.

Edited September 2012: the lawyer in question has made a satisfactory statement of contrition and I have scrubbed the post. The point remains.

Asshole Spammer Lawyer Friday

It's time to name and shame some scummy attorney comment spammers: that subset of the legal profession that either (a) thinks that comment spam is an appropriate way to market legal services, or (b) thinks that it isn't necessary to supervise marketeers. Both sentiments are wrong. A lawyer who thinks that leaving unwanted, irrelevant advertising on strangers' blogs reflects well on him is a jackass with poor judgment, and it's dangerous to hire a lawyer with poor judgment. A lawyer who thinks that she need not supervise how she is marketed by marketeers soon discovers that when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics and your reputation.

This week's contestants:

1. The wig-wearers of Havillands & Co. Solicitors. They are the English kind of solicitors, not the prostitute kind, despite their having spammed us with six bloody pages of linkspam. What's their approach to the law:

Irrespective of the type of case and the stress involved, we go all the way if we are confident justice needs to be done.

How . . . very comforting.

2. "KEL Attorneys", the lawyers of Kaufman, Englett and Lynd, PLLC, who have deluged us with dozens and dozens of spam comments. In an effort at innovation, KEL Attorneys link their spam to pages about them or mentioning them rather than directly to their website. If your web site was as overpoweringly dull and generic as theirs, you might prefer to link to various yahoo! pages as well.

3. Mitchell & Mitchell, a Tennessee firm specializing in auto accidents and divorce, which is particularly useful if you run over your spouse in your car and he or she just stop giving you shit about it:

Mitchell & Mitchell provides high quality legal services to individuals, families, and businesses while specializing in divorce and auto accidents.

The implication is that when they work on anything else, they are strictly ass.

4. McAfee Law Offices, a California bankruptcy firm. Spammers are ethically bankrupt, so that fits.

5. Matorell Law, the firm of Frederick J. Matorell, who does not know the difference between a blog and a clumsy, butt-ugly SEO optimization page.

6. Hargrove & Associates, a personal injury firm, the chief selling point of which appears to be that its lawyers will drive to see you. Just say "outcall" and save some space, guys.

All of these firms, either through deliberate fuckwittery or abject failure to supervise marketeers, has sent us unwanted and unwelcome comment spam. Shame on them.

My typical offer stands: I will remove any name if the spammer (1) sincerely apologizes for his or her own spamming, if it was deliberate, or (2) publicly throws his or her marketeer under the bus.

Comment-Spamming Attorneys Of The Week

Nobody listens to me, really. So should it be any surprise that even though I rail against attorney comment spam and try to name and shame the perpetrators, they keep doing it?

We have two entries today (click to view full versions).

First we have Bob Khakshooy. Bob's a rare bird — a lawyer for whom spamming blogs with drivel may represent an improvement in dignity and professionalism. One of Bob's blogs appears to be organized entirely with half-assed SEO as its guiding principle ("Personal injury attorney Los Angeles handle [sic] a broad range of cases in which one party’s negligence results in injury or loss for another individual. Some of the most common cases handled by personal injury attorneys Los Angeles include [sic] auto accidents, burn accidents, truck accidents, spinal injuries, wrongful death incidents, nursing home abuse, slip and fall injuries and dog bite injuries."). Bob's other site appears designed by web experts who are more accustomed to sites describing how FEMA hired the Jews to demolish the World Trade Center. Bob also has a Twitter account, the sole content of which is "George Lopez rocks." My cup runneth over.

This is not, by far, Bob's only effort at comment spamming — Google reveals that he alternates between calling himself a "well liked" attorney and a "greatly loved" attorney, possibly based upon his progress at therapy.

Second, we have comment spam from The Forman Law Offices, a Florida shop that does med-mal work. You can trust them because one of their lawyers wears a medical instrument.

The expression of the guy on the left suggests that he considered contributing to the theme by bringing a speculum, but couldn't think of a dignified way to hold it. Google reveals that the Forman Law Offices has been spamming their sub-literate crap ("Forman Law Offices have provide [sic] good service and they located [sic] in Delray Beach, FL, specializes in [sic] Florida medical malpractice, malpractice law, Florida Medical Malpractice, Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer.") all over the internet. Though, hey, maybe those Celebrity Kim Kardashian Hairstyles sites were really classed up by references to developments in Florida malpractice law.

Once again, we're left with the core question: did these lawyers (1) direct spam themselves, (2) hire "marketing experts" and then fail to supervise how they were marketing them, or (3) (very highly unlikely) fall victim to some sort of devious plot to discredit them? My money is usually on #2 — that they bought some "marketing expert's" pitch, and the marketing expert hired some twit in Bangladesh to use a spam-comment generator to spray crap all over the internet.

Remember: outsource your marketing, outsource your reputation and your ethics.

Hey Anthony Hughes: Comment Spam is Ethically Bankrupt! Hey Mr. G: Comment Spammers Should Be Personally Injured!

We talk and we talk and we talk about comment spam, but lawyers still do it. Time to call some out.

Anthony Hughes, a Sacramento bankruptcy attorney, only got his bar card in 2007 after graduating from Lincoln Law School. Anthony is apparently a very hard worker; in four years he's already been involved in lots and lots of cases:

Bankruptcy Attorney Anthony Hughes has been involved in over 5,000 bankruptcy cases which have resulted in discharges of millions of dollars of debt. He has spent an average of 20 hours per week for the last two and a half years in the bankruptcy courtrooms and the rest of his time has been spent assisting clients throughout California to obtain all the relief available to them under federal and state law, and attending substantial amounts of seminars on cutting edge topics affecting Bankruptcy Law, Foreclosure, and Debt Relief.

By my calculations, that means that Anthony Hughes, Sacramento bankruptcy attorney, has been involved as a lawyer in 3.42 cases per day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks per year, since he got his bar card. Jesus, Anthony, take a vacation! Unless Anthony is exaggerating, or "involved with" means that the case files resided in the same office in which Anthony is physically located, or — worse yet — Anthony is being tricky and referring to cases he was "involved in" before he became a lawyer. But Anthony wouldn't be tricky like that. Would he?

Is this the face of a trickster? Or of someone even briefly trained in Photoshop?

Anthony is too busy to be tricky. Anthony, or some marketing expert working for Anthony, spammed this blog last week with ten comments saying this:

Good post, its nice to see some real analysis! [spam link to Anthony's site omitted]

Anthony, or his marketing expert, liked our analysis on a number of posts — including posts calling out attorneys for using comment spam. The kids these days, with their irony: I can never tell when they are serious.

Now meet Mr. G, a personal injury attorney. I know that sounds familiar, but this is a totally different spamming personal injury attorney.

Mr. G's hobbies are personal injury litigation and banal website copy like "our firm's greatest asset is our people," by which I frankly hope Mr. G does not mean his marketing people, because they suck. Mr. G or his marketing team left the insightful comment "Thank you for that great article" on two posts this morning, both of which related to prostitution. I'm not sure whether Mr. G or his marketing team is particularly enthusiastic about prostitution, or thinks that his potential clients will be interested in prostitution, or thinks that prostitution-related posts are particularly effective for SEO manipulation. Who can say?

As I see it, there are four possibilities:

1. Some third party, without Anthony's or Mr. G's permission, plugged their names and web sites into some auto-comment-spam program just to test it out. Unlikely.

2. Someone vile enemy, wanting to darken Anthony's and Mr. G's good name, plugged their names and web sites into an auto-comment spam program to make them appear sleazy. I suppose it's possible. But it seems unlikely.

3. Anthony and Mr. G hired "marketing experts" or "SEO experts" without understanding (or caring) what they did, and failed to supervise them adequately. This is a strong possibility.

4. Anthony and Mr. G deliberately chose to attempt to improve their search engine ranking by comment spam, and don't see anything wrong with it, or don't care if it's scummy or not. Experience suggests that this is entirely plausible.

Anthony's and Mr. G's web sites both appear to have been designed by a moderately talented fifth-grader, so I'm guessing that they didn't personally fire up an auto-spam program and type in their insipid spam comments. My bet is that they used a "marketing expert", and either (1) went "eh, whatever" when the "marketing expert" told them what they were going to do to improve their search engine position, or (2) utterly failed to supervise what methods were being used to "improve their web presence."

Remember, as others smarter than I have said:

When you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics and your reputation.

Comment spam doesn't work. All it does is piss people off. If you are someone who depends on a good reputation — like a decent lawyer — then it can be counter-productive, as searches for you or your firm can start to return hits on your shitty little comment spams, or on posts like this. Plus, anyone familiar with lawyering, or with SEO, or with internet etiquette, will conclude that you are either (1) ethically challenged, (2) judgmentally challenged, or (3) incapable of supervising your hirelings.

I have previously called out comment-spamming lawyers by name and subsequently deleted their names upon sufficient apologies or explanations. The problem persists. Here is the price of getting your name taken off a post like this: (1) a personal apology, including taking responsibility for either bad judgment or for inadequate supervision, (2) the name of the marketer who spammed on your behalf, so that I can call out that person and/or company by name, and (3) sufficient proof (like email correspondence with that marketer) to show that you're not just throwing some random marketer under the bus.

Attention, lawyers who engage in, or permit, comment spam: we will name and shame.

[Editor's note: based on an apology, I removed one of the names on this post.]

The Quality of Whimsical Mercy is not Strained

Over the last few weeks we have received dozens of spam comments promoting — if that is the word — a Certain Mega Firm. I can see Certain Mega Firm's offices from my window.

As tradition dictates, someone using some sort of auto-spammer program hit us with dozens of comments targeted to multiple posts here, including posts in which I call out legal spammers. The posts have randomized names and email addresses, probably spoofed IP addresses, and the same content: "[Certain Mega Firm Name] Attorney [City]", followed by the address of one of the firm's many branches in a major city.

Normally, if the mood struck me, I'd out them and ridicule them. They're a gigantic and rather conservative megafirm, and certain other law blogs would find it hilarious that someone was promoting them with the same tactics typically used to market drugs that improve your man-junk. We have great fun here with spammers. Though the impact would be akin to a gnat biting a whale, it would be embarrassing to them on some tiny level.

But I've decided to be whimsical. I am 99% sure that nobody inside Certain Mega Firm did this. I once toiled at Certain Mega Firm, and there are people still there that I like very much. So I emailed a friend, showed him some links (including the Google link showing that this spam is posted all over the internet), and suggested that his web or marketing departments go drop the hammer, hard, on any outside marketers they are using.

Maybe I will be rewarded with an announcement that they have fired their marketers. That would make my day. If nothing else, I will be happy if a MegaFirm becomes aware of one of our favorite sayings: when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your reputation and your ethics to questionable people.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

In this post, I dabbled in the "nice" approach to attorney comment spammers, temporarily eschewing my normal inclination and Eric Turkewitz' exhortation to name and shame attorneys who market (deliberately or through reckless failure to supervise) via comment spam.

It hasn't really worked out.

The attorney to whom I extended that courtesy, after an initial email, never got back to me, even though I handed over a bunch of information and made some suggestions about tracking down what contractor or employee was spamming on his firm's behalf.

I told him I wouldn't out him based on what happened so far, so I won't. Not that he deserves it.

But that's it. From here on out it's naming and shaming. Including with that attorney to whom I was nice — if we receive even one more spam comment promoting his law firm.