Yodle’s “Stellar Record”

Rique Bobbitt has “a stellar record as defense attorney” and passing familiarity with indefinite articles. So do Clark Adams and Edward Reddish. Richard Coleman has “a stellar record as personal injury attorney” and the same articulate deficit.

McNair Hawn Jackson have “a stellar record as elder and disability attorneys.” Dearfield, Kruer and Co., LLC have “a stellar record as bankruptcy attorney” but a weak grasp of number.

Richard Darden has “a stellar record as a criminal defense attorney,” as does Blair Jones.

How do we know these people have stellar records? Because they tell us so! These lawyers, as well as Edward Vaisman, James P. Peterson, Furlong & Drewniak, Allie Booker (representing Houston!), Robert Tunnicliff, and many more are paying Yodle to tout them on the web. Yodle is using the same language to describe each of them:

In addition to having a stellar record as [type of law] attorney, [name] has [number] years of experience, giving him the intricate understanding of legal procedures necessary to develop a winning strategy for your case.

Our commitment to you is to go the extra mile to win your case, and we take that pledge very seriously. So when you [describe legal need], choose an attorney that not only knows your rights, but will do everything in [his/her] power to protect them. Choose [name].

There’s a little variability: one first-year lawyer doesn’t have “[number] years of experience,” but only “the intricate understanding” yadda yadda.

That particular baby lawyer claims, but doesn’t have, a “stellar record.” Aside from the fact that nobody has a “stellar record” after only 11 months of practicing law, court records show her as counsel of record on no cases. So at least sometimes (probably, those of us who have actually practiced law know, most of the time) this claim to a “stellar record” on these cookie-cutter sites is a lie. It’s deceptive.

If this were mere marketing, deceptively claiming a “stellar record” might be legally defensible as “mere puffery.” But we are lawyers, and different rules apply to us. This is why lawyers need to understand the formula OM = OE and its corollary OM = OR, and need to hold marketers like Yodle under short rein: we have to play by the rules of legal ethics; they don’t. The rules that work just fine for people trying to sell used cars or Ginsu knives on the web will get lawyers into ethical and reputational morasses from which they can never recover.

Making deceptive claims about yourself in your advertising is a violation of the disciplinary rules, of ethics, of morals, and of the law. Do you think the first-year lawyer who pays Yodle to market her “stellar record” cares? Well, no, probably not—she’s 27 years old, has been practicing for 11 months, and is still a fool, but she should.

Do the rest of us care about Yodle lying on behalf of the lawyers it markets? Generally, I think, not—the predominant ethic in the blawgosphere at the moment seems to be, “if you don’t interfere with my touting myself, I won’t interfere with your touting yourself” (and besides, “Policing the blawgosphere and calling out specific lawyers on what are still debatable ethical issues seems . . . paternalistic and futile“).

Should we care?

There has been some rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth among marketing lawyers and those who would sell them marketing about the ABA’s announcement that it is considering regulation of online advertising. This should (as I suggested nine months ago) not be a surprise. Where, as in online legal marketing, there is an ethical vacuum, someone is going to step in with regulations. Which, as Scott Greenfield says, is a reason we should care. Should have; it’s probably too late.

9 responses to “Yodle’s “Stellar Record””

  1. In the early, ugly, days, it seemed as if the only lawyers to happily throw off ethical considerations were the scummiest of the scum. It seems as if’s become the norm. We may end up being the only lawyers on the internet without “stellar records.”

    As you say, they don’t care that Yodle is lying on their behalf. There seems to only be a few of us remaining who give a damn. The rest find us an annoyance, making that occasional buzzing sound that interferes with their selling prosecptive client’s on promises they can’t deliver. And here we are, still trying to persuade lawyers to be honest and truthful, like foolish old dinosaurs warning that the ice is coming.

    I can’t help but wonder what sort of deal Yodle will offer you to say something nice about them. Perhaps they will make you a “super-de-duper stellar lawyer,” reserved for only their most important lawyers.

  2. Does anyone think that a lawyer’s complete and total inability to supervise the creation of advertising material on the lawyer’s behalf raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s fitness to practice law?

    • They don’t even have to supervise the creation of the website, but they should show some signs of having read it. I’m not a lawyer, but isn’t careful reading part of the core skill set?

  3. Following my previous comments on your first post, I’d like to offer my point of view here as well.

    As part of our website offering, clients can:
    • Provide us content.
    • Utilize our stock content.
    • Adjust our stock content to fit their individual practice.

    Most of our clients elect to use our stock content because they feel like it is the most cost-effective option for them. We are continually working to improve our stock content across business verticals with a view towards minimizing the kinds of issues that you are pointing to in this blog entry.

    We encourage those clients who choose to use stock content to take the following steps to ensure that the content represents their situation appropriately:

    1. Review the site that they purchase.
    2. Contact their Account Manager to change or amend content when necessary.

    We will work with our clients to make the appropriate updates as well as notify you of our upcoming enhancement to provide more copy writing support for clients.

    You can email me via info{at}yodle.com (reference my name) for additional follow up or information. Thanks, Louis

    • Thank you for your comments.

      The potential client will naturally, reading a page written partly in the first person, think they are viewing a sample of the lawyer’s product.

      Any stock content using the first person is inherently deceptive, and therefore unethical.

      Lawyers are in a position that other businesspeople are not: we are writers. How well we do for our clients depends on how well we can, on our own and on the fly, frame a persuasive argument.

      People “elect to use your stock content”—that is, allow you to publish untrue, erroneous, and deceptive things in their names and voices—because they think they have to “get online,” they are stingy and lazy, and they don’t consider the ethical ramifications of letting marketers write things in their name.

      You don’t care about the ethical ramifications; nobody should expect you to, since the less you care the more money you make. But your customers had better care. Because—you will agree with me—they remain responsible for the content of their sites, which could do great harm to their reputations (not to mention their licenses) in exactly the same way that you are responsible for your salespeople’s lies about Yodle’s relationship with NACDL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.