Incessant Sewer-Dweller LegalMatch Has A Cunning Plan To Get My Business

Late yesterday I saw a new email in my inbox. The subject line caught my eye:

Son under indictment

A new case? One never knows. I opened it.

I found not a new client, but an old friend: one Steve Kramer of LegalMatch, a "service" that purports to help match clients to lawyers. I've written before about emails from Steve Kramer and LegalMatch in unflattering terms. For reasons I cannot recall I previously did not name them; I referred to them with thematic accuracy as Feculent Q. Pus-Crust of the Society for Cornholing Unsuspecting Children. I'm naming them now.

Feculent — pardon me, Steve — has continued to spam me even after threatening me with litigation for criticizing him and even after I reminded him that he was spamming someone he had previously threatened.

Here are some of the email subject lines Steve Kramer has sent over the last two years:

Son under indictment (3/11/15)

My son has been charged with statutory rape (11/25/14)

intent to distribute (11/13/12)

felony arrest (1/4/12)

No, Steve Kramer's son is not — so far as I know — a one-man crime wave. Rather, Steve Kramer and LegalMatch use deceitful clickbait email subjects to get lawyers to look at their spam. As his latest says:

Ken

Let me know whether the following snap shot of some of our recent financially capable LA area criminal defense clients looks like a fit.

Cordially,

Steve Kramer
For Legal Match
310-990-3026

It's nice that Steve Kramer is so forgiving that he's still first-naming me after I've sassed him and written mean posts about him.

Emails from Steve-O and Legal Match contain a sort of list of client inquiries that consumers have apparently left on LegalMatch.

EX FELON WITH POSSESSION OF FIREARM
BELL, CA 02/16/2015 C154733487378

FREE MY SON
AUGUST F. HAW, CA 02/16/2015 ✔ C154721465270

VIOLATION OF PROVATION
SAN FERNANDO, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154646769498

LEAVING THE SCENE OF A ACCIDENT
LYNWOOD, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154643116086

2SUSPECTS TRAFFICKING 48LBS OF DRUGS
LOS ANGELES, CA 02/14/2015 ✔ C154536359337

Steve and LegalMatch represent in their solicitation that somehow they have determined that these people are "financially capable" — meaning, I guess, that they can afford to hire a lawyer. In any litigation I look forward to discovering what methodology they used to evaluate the assets of the "violation of provation" guy. They also represent that these are "criminal defense clients." Yet the emailed lists includes entries like this:

FREON EXPOSURE WORKING AT GENERAL DYNAMICS 80'S.
WALNUT, CA 02/09/2015 C154071310246

Perhaps this person has been criminally charged with exposing himself or herself to freon at General Dynamics in the 1980s. I presume they will explore a statute of limitations defense.

LegalMatch views its system — where people describe their cases, to be reviewed by potential lawyers — as a service to the lawyer-seeking community. Whether it is also a boon to the law enforcement community remains to be seen. It encourages customers to leave entries like this one in the most recent solicitation email:

ACCUSED OF MURDER OCCURRED IN SELF-DEFENSE ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, CA 02/10/2015 ✔ C154102776952

Who read that? Well, apparently, any LegalMatch lawyer with access to that client database, and any prospective LegalMatch lawyer to whom Steve Kramer sent the email. All of those people now know that there is a person accused of murder in or near Rolling Hills Estates, California, in February of 2015, who says they did kill the person but did so in self-defense. Did they get legal advice before making that disclosure? Did they think that the disclosure would be kept confidential? Did they know it would be sent out in spam emails? Would a court treat such an entry as privileged, despite how recklessly it is being bandied about? Is LegalMatch certain that it didn't sent this information to anyone with connections to the victim, or the victim's family's lawyers, or the prosecutors, or the investigating officers, or the media? Do you think that — assuming this is a real case — the media would be interested in hearing that the accused was admitting to having killed the victim but was asserting self-defense?

Of course, if that entry is entirely fabricated, I suppose it's not so much an amoral and reckless disclosure by LegalMatch as it is false advertising.

I've written to Steve Kramer, LegalMatch's press office, and their general counsel asking some questions.1 Among them is this question — does LegalMatch think that it is not bound by the CAN-SPAM Act, which (as LegalMatch's blog will tell you) prohibits misleading subject lines and requires clear opt-out-of-this-spam systems?

LegalMatch is not the only turd in the beclouded punchbowl of the legal marketing community. But, despite vigorous competition, it is one of the oldest, most noisome, and most persistent turds. Steve Kramer has been pestering the unwilling about LegalMatch for years, and LegalMatch has been using sleazy tactics (and promising to improve them) for a decade.

Yet LegalMatch continues to thrive. That means some lawyers out there are paying them. Those lawyers are equally responsible for perpetuating these practices. And the clients — oh, the clients. Citizens, know this: if you hire someone through LegalMatch, you're hiring someone desperate or stupid or cynical enough to accept this bad behavior.

Back in 2012 I told Steve Kramer "Remove me from your spam list forthwith." Perhaps this post will help get results.

  1. Dear LegalMatch,

    It has been two years since Steve Kramer, the author of the solicitation below, threatened me with a lawsuit for criticizing his and LegalMatch’s sleazy marketing techniques. I’ve repeatedly asked Mr. Kramer to cease spamming me and my firm. I’ve reminded him that, since he threatened to sue me for writing about LegalMatch, perhaps he might want to take me off of his spam list. Yet he persists, as you can see from the email below.

    I have some questions.

    First, does LegalMatch support, and stand behind, this marketing method? Does LegalMatch approve of sending emails with misleading clickbait titles like “Son under indictment” to lawyers?

    Second, how does LegalMatch determine that potential clients are “legally capable,” as asserted in this advertising solicitation? For instance, if in the course of discovery in litigation I were to seek discovery of the financial circumstances of the person below seeking help with “violation of provation,” how would I find that LegalMatch had assessed their ability to pay?

    Third, by what means does LegalMatch determine that potential clients are “LA area criminal defense clients,” as represented in the solicitation below? For instance, does the “Motorcycle Stolen from my garage” matter below have a hidden criminal defense angle? How about “Freon exposure working at General Dynamics ‘80s?” If that person unlawfully exposed themselves to freon in the 1980s I would have thought that the statute of limitations would have expired by now.

    Fourth, what is LegalMatch’s theory regarding why it is not required to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act? The email does not have a clear method to opt out of further unsolicited commercial emails. Also, is it your position that the email – and the pattern of ones like it – complies with the CAN-SPAM prohibition on misleading emails?

    Please advise. The last time I wrote about Mr. Kramer’s emails I did not name him or the company. That was an error. I will be naming this time and reprinting the emails I have received over the last two years.

    Ken White  

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Castaigne says

    Ah, Mr White, I love posts like this.
    I now go to rev up the popcorn machine for expected munching and the reading of an appropriate schooling of this dweeb.

  2. Tony Festa says

    Damn, Ken. Every time I read one of your blogs I discover a new word to look up. This time it's feculent. Thanks for increasing my vocabulary.

  3. albert says

    @Ken
    "…"Remove me from your spam list forthwith."…"
    .
    I think maybe Steve considers his list a 'prospective client' list , and not spam at all….
    .
    I'm ready for the popcorn, as soon as I check with @Castaigne about what machine to buy….:)
    ….

  4. Clarence Odbody says

    @Tony Fiesta
    I had to look up "provation". Turns out it's a trademark of ProVation Medical. I wonder if they even realize they've been violated.

  5. Lokiwi says

    I cannot wait for updates with their response. This has a certain "watching a car crash that is about to happen" quality.

  6. ... says

    Good to know what gets you to open email, Ken. Perhaps for Steve this post is actually advertising.

  7. Philip says

    Sadly, if I recall correctly, the CAN-SPAM Act does not have a private cause of action so many violators have little incentive to stop since nobody is going to be compelling them to do so. I hope I am mistaken about what a private person can do about these unwanted emails since I get plenty that I would like to stop.

  8. Nancy says

    Slow learner, isn't he?

    Dare I hope that any outraged responses from him will be posted in full?

  9. Nicholas Weaver says

    Pretty sure the "murder" is about as legit as the Dread Pirate Ulbricht's hitmen: Thats on the Palos Verdes peninsula, and a bit of Google searching hasn't found anything (yet). But then again, if there is an interface to find out more, I'm pretty sure the DA would be interested in paying to gain access to this legal referral service.

    Also, although the CANSPAM act has no private call, those who run the mailservers do, although only their actual damages.

    In this case, since that is the corporation I think (a bit of digging suggests that Brown, White & Osborne uses GFI Max MailEdge for frontline filtering, which you wouldn't use unless your actual mail server is on premises), and this passed through the Spam filters presumably, IF Brown, White & Osborne does run their mailservers in house, there might actually be a case…

    Assuming for a moment that Brown, White & Osborne does run their own mailserver, it now appears that an Brown, White & Osborne employee expended a good 15 minutes dealing with the negative consequences of this spam…. At a good, say, $500/hr billing rate, Mr Pus-Crust should be sent a bill.

  10. Resolute says

    Please let him be stupid enough to try defending himself in the comments. Pleasepleaseplease

  11. Tom Garberson says

    I already passed this on to Ken directly, but if anyone else comes across this kind of crap in California, see Business and Professions Code section 17529.5, which prohibits the transmission of unsolicited commercial e-mail (“UCE”) with “a subject line that a person knows would be likely to mislead a recipient, acting reasonably under the circumstances, about a material fact regarding the contents or subject matter of the message.” It does create a private cause of action, with statutory damages ($1k per e-mail) and attorney fees (arguably only if it goes above the small claims threshold). And unlike the rest of CA's anti-spam law, it was not preempted by CAN-SPAM, since it regulates fraudulent or deceptive commercial solicitations.

    Blah blah disclaimer: if I were giving you legal advice, I'd charge you money. This info is just a starting point for you to do your own damn homework.

  12. En Passant says

    Ken wrote:

    I've written to Steve Kramer, LegalMatch's press office, and their general counsel asking some questions.1 Among them is this question — does LegalMatch think that it is not bound by the CAN-SPAM Act, which (as LegalMatch's blog will tell you) prohibits misleading subject lines and requires clear opt-out-of-this-spam systems?

    First, what Tom Garberson said above is correct to the best of my recollection and experience a few years ago. Of course, expect defendant in a CA action to argue preemption. But I think it can be overcome as he pointed out.

    Second, given the likely numbers of CA lawyers who have been sent this spam, you might readily find co-plaintiffs.

    If you want to know more about spam litigation in CA courts under CA anti-spam law, and a preeminent CA anti-spam attorney to consult, let me know here, and I will reply in email. I'm being vague here about experience, because reasons.

  13. Tom Garberson says

    The trial court concluded that the CAN–SPAM Act's savings clause, which permits states to regulate “falsity or deception” in a commercial e-mail, only applies to state statutes that require the plaintiff to establish every element of common law fraud. For the reasons that follow, we disagree with the trial court's interpretation of the CAN–SPAM Act and hold that the federal statute does not preempt state laws claims arising under section 17529.5.

    (Hypertouch, Inc. v. ValueClick, Inc. (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 805, 825 (emphasis added.)) Clean as a whistle!

  14. Speed says

    Forwarded a copy to Gilligan and Gould for follow up. Maybe we'll see something like LegalMatch in an future episode.

  15. John Pomeroy says

    Not meaning to nitpick (well, I guess I am) and I understand your people don't have an ethos of proofreading, but the article talks about the potential clients being financially capable, but your note to LegalMatch says the potential clients are "legally capable." Aren't you the one who's supposed to be legally capable?

  16. Cheshirelion says

    Would a possible client actually cold-call…err email a lawyer with a subject line like the examples used in this post? Serious question

  17. says

    "Perhaps this person has been criminally charged with exposing himself or herself to freon at General Dynamics in the 1980s. I presume they will explore a statute of limitations defense."

    I assume the next line of defense is something like "The freon told me, 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours!'".

  18. Dan says

    Interesting this subject should come up. In yesterday's (snail) mail, I received a solicitation from a company (whom I won't name here, so as to not give them the advertising), who's offering (for a fee, of course) to monitor public records and send letters in my name, on my letterhead, over my signature, soliciting business from recently-named defendants in criminal (and, apparently, civil) cases. All I could think was, "when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics."

  19. Erik says

    Those of us still old-school enough to run our own email servers are able to use some interesting software tricks to deal with particularly obnoxious spammers – we can force the connection from offending entity to work painfully slowly… and then fail at the very end, which will usually cause them to send again. This can tie up their server resources more or less no cost to us (the practice is called "tarpitting").

  20. Al Kahol says

    Back in the 80s we used to have freon fights with liquid freon soaked up into sponges and hurled around the shop. I wonder what 'Freon Exposure' level that would constitute?

  21. RLJ says

    "Feculent" has a number of amazing synonyms. "Sharny," "Shardborn," and simplest "Shitten." My favorite, however, is "Conskited," which is probably even better in its active verb form.

    I.E. "Are you aware, and do you approve, of the manner in which Steve Kramer is contriving to conskite both Legal Match's reputation and the email inboxes of countless lawyers?"

  22. Nicholas Weaver says

    The Yelp reviews for the LA branch are entertaining: http://www.yelp.com/biz/legalmatch-los-angeles

    Four reviews, 3 are 1* from lawyers who feel ripped off, one from an employee of Legal Match. It sounds like its really good for individuals who want to recruit a lawyer that makes Slippin' Jimmy seem like a legal luminary, but that is about it.

  23. HandsomeSam says

    "First time, long time" as the sports radio morons say…

    I decided to check and see if our murder suspect in Rolling Hills Estates is loose-lipped or fictitious, and I'm guessing wholly fictitious:

    http://homicide.latimes.com/neighborhood/rolling-hills-estates/year/all

    Keep in mind both of these murders are, as VP Biden might say, "Big f'n deals" in Rolling Hills Estates, I think there'd be a bit more buzz out in LA about either one of these suspects being caught, or about a new murder in sleepy and fabulously wealthy RHE.

  24. says

    As a recent consumer of legal services, I have to say, 4 ineffective counsel (one was actually a team of 2) later, it seems that any way one finds out about a lawyer is fruitless.

    They all failed to protect our rights, literally. They are all scared of the judge. They ripped my poor ex-husband off 11,000 dollars. So someone has found a way to get a lawyer to willingly part with what very well may be ill-gotten gains? Hmmm.

  25. Fasolt says

    EX FELON WITH POSSESSION OF FIREARM
    BELL, CA 02/16/2015 C154733487378

    FREE MY SON
    AUGUST F. HAW, CA 02/16/2015 ✔ C154721465270

    VIOLATION OF PROVATION
    SAN FERNANDO, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154646769498

    LEAVING THE SCENE OF A ACCIDENT
    LYNWOOD, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154643116086

    2SUSPECTS TRAFFICKING 48LBS OF DRUGS
    LOS ANGELES, CA 02/14/2015 ✔ C154536359337

    Not to nitpick, but shouldn't the first subject line read "Ex-felon in possession of a firearm"? The way that reads, you could interpret it as saying being an ex-felon is a crime. Something like "Moper with possession of spray paint".

    "Free my son." Hmm, confusing. Could be a sequel to "Free Willy."

    "Violation of provation", eh? At least it's not violation of prostration, or something like that.

    "Leaving the scene of a accident." I hope his legal prowess is better than his command of spelling. No one is going to take you seriously Sir Feculent if you can't master the usage of "a" and "an".

    48lbs? I guess that's weed. Cocaine seizures are usually expressed in kilos.

  26. albert says

    Where is "AUGUST F. HAW, CA". Can't find it on Google Maps.
    .
    The spineless invertebrates subspecies usually blame their paralegals, secretaries, or those pesky contractors for these kinds of 'errors'.
    .

  27. Kittens R. Horrid says

    It looks like those are real cases, and the spammers are using a crappy ZIP code converter that turns 90044 into "August F. Haw", 90274 into "Rolling Hills Estates", etc., and of course uses the prospective clients' home ZIP code, not the location of the crime.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the homicide were the December 6 stabbing death of Roderick Dunba'r in Lomita, which is right next to Rolling Hills Estates.

  28. FrancisT says

    "Society for Cornholing Unsuspecting Children" – you should have chosen a word beginning with M instead of children (mothers perhaps?) It makes the abbreviation so much more appealing

  29. Wesley says

    So I decided, out of morbid curiosity, to check out Legal Match from the client end. After inputting some basic information about the "accused" (in this case an entirely fabricated defendant charged with drug crimes), his charges, and his court location, I come across a screen which tells me to enter a "one line summary of your case," and then under it a 300-word-or-less synopsis with the following disclaimer:

    "Do NOT make any admissions or confessions. Do NOT include information that may be incriminating or confidential."

    There's a question mark icon next to that disclaimer, when if clicked results in a pop-up which basically repeats the instructions in slightly more detail, with the following caution:

    "Make sure not to divulge any incriminating details or personal information (proper names, phone numbers, etc)."

    And that is (apparently) the extent Legal Match protects the interests of criminal defendants from incriminating themselves. And you have to click on an optional pop-up screen before you're told not to include real names and contact information. As a criminal defense attorney, that is horrifying. As any actual lawyer would know, defendants can incriminate themselves or otherwise hurt their case in a myriad ways besides saying "I did it," many of which would not be obvious to a lay defendant prior to consulting a lawyer.

    (Interesting note: after that screen, I was brought to a sign up screen where I had to register, which I declined to do. Prior to that, the only income verification involved a box where I could, completely optionally, choose to disclose the defendant's annual income or not. I did not input anything for it and was allowed to continue.)

  30. riking says

    @Clarence Odbody

    @Tony Fiesta
    I had to look up "provation". Turns out it's a trademark of ProVation Medical. I wonder if they even realize they've been violated.

    Sounds like a Lanham Act violation to me!