That was the title of an email I received an hour ago. OK, I added the exclamation point — the email was titled only "Felony Arrest."
Other criminal defense attorneys — indeed, perhaps most attorneys — know what comes next. Was it from a client, or potential client, alerting me to crisis requiring my assistance? No. No, it was not. It was an unsolicited email from a legal marketeer I had never heard of before — from a fairly well know referral service — who wanted me to "discuss a relationship" in which I would pay for access to his firm's list of potential clients. Here, with certain deliberate omissions and alterations, is how it went:
I do not believe that our two firms have met.
I'd like to discuss a relationship regarding the rights to our criminal law matters in the San Diego area.
Take a look at some of our current pre-screened (for financial capability) client matters in that protected territory.
To access our database:
• go to our site, societyforcornholingunsuspectingchildren.com;
• click on attorney log-in;
• your user name is rube2012;
• your password, is sucker2012;
• all lower case
• note that the password and user name are different
• click on the "all" cases line near the top of the home page;
• expires on January 4
Of course, I do ask that you not yet contact any of the clients.
Let me know whether it looks like a potential fit.
Mr. Feculent Q. Pus-Crust
Society For Cornholing Unsuspecting Children
[Los Angeles address and numbers]
My new pal Feculent is right about one thing — our firms have not met. That's because my firm is a law firm, and his firm is lodged, like a partially absorbed suppository, in the legal referral industry.
A few notes:
1. As is common with solicitations form the legal referral industry, the email title is intended to deceive. They do they same thing when they call — they tell the receptionist "I'm calling with a referral of a case" or "I need to talk about a criminal case."
2. My firm does, in fact, do work throughout California. However, most of our work is in the greater Los Angeles area. Our San Diego work is a few percentage points of our practice. Trying to pitch San Diego strongly suggest that dear Feculent is working off of some sort of automated lead generator. [Note: Feculent writes an enraged email back stating that he writes each pitch by hand and does not use any automated lead generator.]
3. Note that the misleading headline and the lack of a prominent opt-out provision puts the email squarely in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.
4. I cannot imagine doing business with someone who seeks to initiate a business relationship based on deception. Even if I thought that using a legal referral service is palatable (which I do not) or made business sense (which I do not), I would never in a million years turn to a firm like the S.F.C.U.S., which approached me with a deceitful heart and a dishonest pitch.
5. I didn't use the password to look at their "pre-screened (for financial capability)" client matters. But the mere existence of a list of such things being put on the internet and emailed to potential customers is bizarre. I assume — I hope — that the list doesn't disclose actual names. Even if it does not, what type of criminal case has (a) a client pre-screened for financial ability and (b) such a leisurely pace that it can be summarized on a web site and used for marketing purposes to attract potential lawyers to represent the client, as opposed to, I don't know, immediately connecting the criminal defendant with a lawyer to protect his or her rights?
I feel the way I do when I get body-part-enlargement spam and fortune-in-gold-in-Nigeria pitches: what sort of morons respond to this? Isn't the model, in some ways, inherently self-repudiating? Isn't any lawyer who would respond to such a pitch inherently unsuitable to represent any criminal defendant?