That's What I Want In A Court Reporter: DRAMA

Dear Court Reporting Service My Firm Uses,

Thank you for the competent and reliable services you have provided to us during various depositions over the last few years. Thank you also for the cookies, goodies, free lunches, and other marketing perks you have sent over the years, which help reduce our competition by contributing to Type II diabetes amongst attorneys.

Now . . . as to your spam email of today.

Your email was designed to convey the notion that you are versatile and responsive and flexible and ready to serve. You chose to convey that message by emailing me a . . . a skit. Or maybe you'd call it a short story. It's too long to be a vignette.

The skit began, without preamble, like this:

“You have to stop whining. You’re beautiful and I love you,” he said, “but I have to go.”

The speaker, we quickly learn, is one of your court reporters, talking to his dog. No. Really. And that's the part of the email that shows up in the preview window.

In the course of the rather lengthy skit, your reporter demonstrates responsiveness to clients when a deposition is moved from Los Angeles to the nearby island of Catalina. That's swell. If I ever abruptly move a deposition the day it is scheduled to a nearby island in violation of every rule of court and professional conduct, I'm glad to know your outfit can roll with the punches.

But I'm here to tell you: emailing me this skit, in an email titled only "Avalon," with a sales pitch at the end, did not come off as charming or imaginative or bold. Here's a sample of reactions from me, my associates, and my paralegals: "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!" "Seriously?" "Eeeeew." "Ridiculous."

Marketeers need to have some grasp of their audience. Your audience is made up of professionals wanting reliable no-drama service. You advertised with dramatic spam. Everyone here found it creepifying. I know people say "any publicity is good publicity" and "all you need is for people to think of you." But next time I need a court reporter and someone suggests you, I am going to think "wait — are those the people that sent the weird court reporter skit with the needy dog and the helicopter? Who else can we use?"

Seriously. Think this stuff over.



Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    “You have to stop whining. You’re beautiful and I love you,” he said, “but I have to go.”

    Is nothing in our relationship private?

  2. Kensington says

    PLEASE tell us that you actually sent this letter, Ken.

    (Also, please tell us that there is a remote audio feed in the service's office so we can hear what happens when People In Charge see your letter.)

  3. BCP says

    I saw this today, as well, but only because it we emailed to me with commentary similar to yours. This particular service made my block sender list months ago for sending similar spam. Some overly curious part of me does somewhat want to meet the failed writer who landed a job with them and convinced them they could use his creative writing degree to their benefit.

  4. Mike_C says

    > And, honestly, who talks that way to their dog? A ferret, possibly, but a dog?

    Ferrets, dogs, who knows?

  5. OngChotwI says

    Does this mean that they offer to leave the court by turning on a boombox and marching out to "my ragtime gal"? In which case they'd be primed for the headline of, "Court Reporters even more nuts than their alleged clients at #Prenda" :)

  6. says

    Hey, a quick helicopter trip to Avalon for business is actually pretty nice. Maybe you lawyers should make some changes in court rules and procedures.

  7. Shelby says

    I got the same message and had the same reaction. I guess I need to add them to my block sender list, too. Seriously, a thousand-word rather crappy short story?

  8. htom says

    Not being a lawyer, I've missed out on the letter. I'll live. Are you sure it wasn't a clumsy attempt at farce?

  9. George William Herbert says

    Today, you laugh. Tomorrow, Fox Television Reality Series "Real Court Reporters of Catalina Island" premieres, and YOU WILL NOT BE IN IT.

    You fool.

  10. says

    Back in the dot-com days when I worked for the Dark Lord Murdoch, we hired "Red Sheriff" to do some sort of site statistics thing or other. (The basic function, "letting the people who make our sites see stats for those sites", never did actually come to pass.)

    At once point (NOT Halloween or the first of April), Red Sheriff's representatives showed up in toy-shop cowboy costumes, with cap guns and such.

    I suppose if your name is going to make people think you're cowboys anyway then you might as well double down.

  11. Brett Middleton says

    As the Director of the Fuzzy Institute for the Study of Non-Newtonian Physics and Other Anomalous Phenomena (aka The Fuzzy Physics Institute), I can assure you that I would never have such a conversation with my four-footed faculty and research associates (aka sofa snakes, carpet sharks, and numerous other terms of opprobrium, including a species name that translates as "stinky thief"), if for no other reason than the simple fact that ferrets do not have vocal equipment capable of producing any sound remotely similar to a whine (cf. "dook" and "hiss"). Additionally, ferrets are not terribly prone to separation anxiety, obviating any need to explain one's comings and goings.

    Just wanted to set the record straight on that.

  12. LW says

    "ferrets do not have vocal equipment capable of producing any sound remotely similar to a whine (cf. "dook" and "hiss")"

    They also scream when very angry.

  13. Brett Middleton says

    Wow. That Scalzi piece should be required annual reading for everyone on the planet over the age of 12. Not only might it help prevent twisted spam, but also addenda requesting the heads of plagiarists.

    I would argue that Scalzi's thesis has a certain applicability to public communications as well as private, if you consider how a bit of cleverosity might affect a reader who is not familiar with the author. A small slip into failure mode might cause a reader to dismiss the entire communication. It might even cause him to dismiss the author as unworthy of further exploration.

  14. Anonymous says

    Hey Ken

    I have a question, is it possibleprobably that you'd do a piece on the Sovereign Citizen movement at some point? I've read a few things about them recently (From a discussion of the Prenda case that sprang off when Steele denied that Judge Wright has any jurisdiction over him) and it has gotten me curious.

  15. Votre says

    LOL Go get em' Ken!

    That letter they sent sounds almost as ridiculous as your Town Without Pony post. Was it another slow day at Popehat? ;-)

  16. AlphaCentauri says

    The difference with the Maxwell House campaign is that Maxwell House has never spammed me. (That's what Gevalia Coffee is for.)

  17. says

    Got the same e-mail, had the same reaction.

    Except for the part about the horny translator and the flirty court reporter getting helicoptered to Avalon at the last minute. At that point, my willing suspension of disbelief was shattered. I mean, I can imagine lawyers agreeing to move a deposition from downtown to Avalon that same morning and agreeing to the same start time without at least one of them throwing a temper tantrum. Sure. Because that sort of thing happens all the time</I.

    But the firm in question has sent me court reporters who can't find addresses on frickin' Wilshire Boulevard without calling me for directions twice. It's quite difficult to believe that they'd charter a helicopter so that a deposition would go off on time and harder still that the billing for such a thing would be handled without LOTS of stress all around.

  18. LT says

    … I have spoken to my dog like that. Although I'd never call him 'beautiful'. Adorable, maybe. Cute, yes. But not beautiful. Too girly.

    It's kind of a shame we never get spam like that here; it would be amusing. I suppose avionic software dev just doesn't have the appeal good ol' lawyering does.

  19. DeathpÖny says

    "You have to stop whining. You’re beautiful and I love you,” he said, “but I have to go…..I need to find ponies….lots of them….the four ponies of the apocalypse call and I am their harbinger…”

    See that would have got me interested.

    I have seen a lot of this myself, usually from marketing grads who dont understand the difference between retail marketing campaigns and business to business. Yes, the earlier poster pointed out uses of this kind of storytelling marketing technique, and the thing those successful uses usually have in common is a retail framework, where you are generally selling to an emotional response and you are building a brand by selling an emotional connection to the brand.

    When you are selling b2b services or products to professional and industrial firms you are better off sticking to more straight down the line approaches.

    Thing is, I had the same conversation 10 times with a marketing person we had working for our company, every time I told her what I wanted she kept coming back with the same stuff. Just could not get the message. Have had that problem a few times, not sure what causes it.

    I thought services to the legal profession had avoided that pestilence. Unfortunately not.

  20. gramps says

    "When you are selling b2b services or products to professional and industrial firms you are better off sticking to more straight down the line approaches."

    Deathpony: the b2b marketing you describe might make it necessary for that marketing person to know something about the business on both ends of the desired transaction. That might be tough to find if they are taught that they need to only know "marketing", that it applies the same in all situations. It could be an education failure.

    Back when I did productive things, the people selling us stuff were generally engineers playing salesman (or -women); electrical engineers selling motors and controls, mechanical engineers selling cranes and parts thereof. Everyone spoke the same lingo.

  21. NickM says

    John C. – if Ken did civil law rather than criminal, he could have had cases at the Pier Annex Courthouse of L.A.'s Southwest District. I think they closed it since i left CA, but it was located in the Redondo Beach King Harbor (pier) complex, and was literally a stone's throw from the ocean.

  22. says

    I just got another one. This one about the beauty of Lake Victoria in Uganda, the mysterious and spiritually-uplifting source of the Nile River. And how said court reporting firm was able to arrange videoconferencing at the Kampala Sheraton, with the witness choosing to stay the night at the hotel and watch the sun set into Lake Victoria. Which is bullshit because while there is a Sheraton in Kampala, it is (naturally enough) downtown and the lake is to its south. Last time I checked, the sun set in the West in Uganda, same as it does here.