The law is a self-mocking profession. There’s no need to make fun of it or its practitioners because so many of them are doing such a great job of making themselves the subject of fun. They just need a little spotlight for the comedy to come alive. I like to think that from time to time I provide that spotlight, and maybe a little context so that the layperson can better appreciate the jokes.

I know that there are some stuffy establishment lawyers who think that it’s bad for lawyers to cast the profession in an unfavorable light, but I disagree. Only those who think the profession depends on fraud for its prestige ought to object to the casting of a truthful light on the profession. To those who believe that this venture in which we are engaged is a worthy one that stands on its own merits, there is no downside to casting light on the unethical and the clownish on the bench and in the bar. When I call your attention to the hijinks of some yahoo lawyer or judge, I’m increasing knowledge and improving the profession.

Bart Craytor, upon whom I might have shined a little light, disagrees with me. He writes, “I think it best for the legal pro­fes­sion as a whole, not to make mock­ery of our col­leagues and courts cast­ing a tainted shade over our own very pro­fes­sion.”

In what I wish were a finely-honed comic turn, Craytor’s admonition not to make mockery of our colleagues follows on the heels of this sentence:

Per­haps, some­day, Mr. Ben­nett may have the priv­i­lege to know me.

Self-mocking, I tell you.

Craytor also writes, in justification of his requesting the endorsements of strangers:

Avvo is a mar­ket­ing avenue. It pro­vides an inter­net pres­ence.

This is true, I suppose, but not a defense.

The Internet has done a great deal of harm to the legal profession—and I say this not as someone who is afraid of the Internet but as one of the first lawyers to take to the Internet early in their careers. Lawyers who have been convinced that they need an “internet presence” have taken to the Internet as though it’s a place where truth doesn’t matter.

The callowest young lawyer puts up a website in which he calls himself “The Law Offices of Maverick Ray” (he has one office), “An Experienced Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Your Freedom Can Depend On” (he has been licensed for less than eight months and been hired on one felony sex case), “the Assassin of Suppression” (Harris County records show no granted suppression motions in drug cases), “Houston’s premier DWI Attorney” (I wonder what Gary Trichter or Troy McKinney, or Lewis Dickson, to name but three of Houston’s top DWI lawyers, with decades of experience each—[edit: not to mention Tyler Flood]—would have to say about that), “often opting to let a jury determine whether someone was truly intoxicated rather than the highly flawed Field Sobriety Tests, Breath Tests, or Blood Tests” (District Clerk records do not show him trying a single DWI case in Harris County during those eight months).

Maybe all of this can somehow be rationalized in a callow young lawyer’s mind, but it just isn’t true. Maverick is a nice kid, but I think he’s committing large-scale fraud on potential clients. Even if it’s factual, it’s deceptive. I am saddened and disappointed, and I see no way for this to end well for him.

But—for now at least—it works. Ray gets at least three new cases a week on average, mostly felonies. I don’t know how much he’s charging—whatever it is, it’s too much—but it doesn’t take big fees to turn 94 cases in a little over seven months into serious money.

At any rate, the Maverick Rays of the legal profession put up deceptive websites and take cases that they are not competent to handle. They think there’s nothing wrong with it because that’s what they see other lawyers do, and the State Bar doesn’t police lawyer advertising very well. Here’s what Ray had to say when I gave him a chance to take down his site—be the student or be the lesson—before I posted this: “What do you mean deceptive? It was approved by Texas Bar and is no different than countless other attorneys websites.”

Nothing about that justification works. Nothing makes Maverick Ray a “premier” DWI lawyer. Nothing makes him an “experienced” sex crimes lawyer. But the Texas Bar doesn’t bother to look real closely; they’re looking for violations of the objective rules, and often aren’t looking very closely for those. And “everyone else is doing it” has never been a good excuse for bad behavior.

The tier of lawyers above Maverick Ray—lawyers who have some experience but who, for whatever reason, seek only small fees—see Ray’s marketing and think that they are losing business, so they get online and, like Maverick Ray, they don’t worry a whole lot about the truth of their marketing—it’s a marketing avenue; it provides an internet presence. The next tier of lawyers—lawyers who cost a little more, and maybe have a little more experience—see them getting online. They slap something together, or pay someone to do it for them, without a lot of fidelity to the truth.

Each layer of lawyer cake takes its cues from the layer below, rather than from the layer above. This is the race to the bottom of which Scott Greenfield so often writes. And it’s a very thin slice of criminal-defense lawyer cake that is immune to this race to the bottom, if cake can be said to be immune to a race. Most criminal-defense lawyers are (I say this with love) so ragingly insecure that they will pay just about anything for a little bit of validation.

There’s a racket for every layer of the cake—rackets like FindLaw, and R.W. Lynch, and Yodle, and the “National Trial Lawyers” (since 2010, per whois records) of Dothan, Alabama’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, which, contrary to its name, has 195 lawyers in Houston alone, each of whom has paid for the dubious honor of being listed. Houston appears to have more “Top 100” lawyers than any other US city; some very good lawyers are paying a couple hundred bucks a year for the ego stroke of knowing (and advertising) that some entrepreneurs in Dothan, Alabama, population 68,000, call them “Top 100.” I don’t know whether we Houston criminal-defense lawyers are more insecure than lawyers in Chicago or Miami or L.A. (inconceivable!) or New York, or whether “National Trial Lawyers” have just done a better job of marketing themselves here.

That’s where the real money is: taking advantage of the raging insecurities of trial lawyers. Those Givens boys in Dothan are smart (I’ll write more about them soon), but I want to be a damn genius. I’m gonna buy “InternationalTrialLawyers.org,” incorporate, and sell 10,000 “Top 10 lawyers” plaques at $2,000 a pop.

Maybe I can get Maverick Ray to buy one.

32 responses to “Unmockable”

  1. Mark- I don’t think I have met “the Assas­sin of Sup­pres­sion” . Someone should tell this “Terror of Error” that “Assassin” and “Suppression” don’t rhyme.

    Legal work easy to sell
    When lies and fibs ring the bell
    But all this will too soon fail
    When lawyer lands in his cell.

    Robb Fickman
    Asshole from El Paso
    From Midland

    Best Lawyer in the Galaxy Recipient
    Best Lawyer This Side of the Mississippi Recipient
    AVVVOO Greatest Everything to Everyone Award
    FoundLaw Triple Crown Hot Dog with Relish Recipient
    Super Duper Lawyer of the Decade

  2. The “Everybody else is doing it!” defense. Didn’t work for me at home, and the parochial school nuns would publicly mock anybody who tried the EEIDI defense with them.

  3. OK, at first I thought “Maverick Ray” was a psuedonym, used by Mr. Bennett to make a point. Then I thought, “Maverick Ray”? What a cool name for a lawyer! Almost as good as parting your name on the left. Then, knowing a little about Mr. Bennett’s prior posts, I Googled the name. Real guy. Lawyer. Houston. With sites with marketing as cited by Mr. Bennett. Dang. I was left with an oddly hollow feeling. As a former “user” of Findlaw, I felt that old feeling of foreboding and regret. It’s tough finding your way. It pays to listen. It pays to go slow. I still worry about my site content. I still try to under rather than over sell. But, mostly, I worry about the Maverick Rays ten years from now – when they still haven’t learned. And Mark Bennett is still having to write posts such as this.

  4. […] How cool is it to be a Texas criminal defense lawyer with a name like Maverick? I mean, seriously, somebody’s mother (unless the lawyer just assumed the name for fun) knew what she was doing, amirite?  Yet, the same cool factor can serve to get one noticed not only by people who want to love you, but people whose scrutiny might be less welcome. Like Houston criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett. […]

  5. To start with, the small quote from our several email exchanges doesn’t represent my position at all. I said I’d like to know exactly what you were claiming was deceptive and that we could talk about fixing it. I offered to sit down with you one on one and discuss any issues you had with the site requested that you waited with the threatened blog post. I explained I am set to pick a jury today and my full focus was on that case, but as soon as the case was done I would address your concerns and relayed to your process for making corrections on my site. I had a hunch of some things you were claiming were deceptive and asked you about them, but you said you did not want to nitpick my website for me. Instead of waiting to talk to me about your concerns you wrote a post about me based on some research you conducted on the internet. I’ll address some of your concerns the exact way I would have had you taken the time to talk with me about these concerns. As I suspected there seems to be a lack of knowledge about me, yet I still acknowledge you have some valid concerns.
    As far as offices: While I do not advertise multiple locations, I do have a satellite office in the Woodlands, which is closer to my house for any weekend work I need done and also provides an opportunity to meet clients in the Montgomery County area. While not mentioned on the site, this is something a client could learn if they were to talk to me.
    On experienced in sex crimes: No doubt 8 months in practice and no real felony sex crimes linked to my SPN/SBN is an understandable concern. But what the district clerk website doesn’t show you is that I have in fact tried 5 Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child cases in these short 8 months and will be teeing up number 6 in January. And by trying these cases I do mean actually playing a part and trying the case. I do not just sit there and help with jury selection and get “2nd chair credit” as some do. I have done every single aspect of the trial including cross examination on the outcry hearing, cross examination on the officer who obtained a confession, cross examination on the child, the mother, and the plethora of CAC experts that the State brings forth to boost the credibility of their case. In my most recent case I conducted the majority of the trial including voir dire and doing the full closing argument (in the past I split the time with my mentor) and the result? Not Guilty of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, but Guilty of the Lesser Indecency of a Child. Despite the confession coming in in which our client stated that an 8 year old girl came onto him and he had white saliva come out of his penis onto her leg. I still believe the confession should not have come in and will ultimately/hopefully provide basis for reversal on appeal. Afterward the jury informed me that had their been no confession they would not have convicted, some even said they weren’t quite sure if the guy was just tricked into confessing and may be not guilty of anything at all. Throughout these experiences as odd as it may be, I have taken an extreme liking to them. I have several dropbox folders full of law reviews, transcripts, policies etc. dealing with forensic interviews, RATAC training, the Children Assessment Center, and the different psychological and medical research that is displayed at these trials. I have spent several hours talking to different defense experts about these cases, collected data they have provided me and added it to my arsenal. I honestly believe that I can handle these cases and if you asked Gilbert Villarreal and Justice Leslie Yates I think you will learn they too know I can handle these cases as odd and alarming as it may be for a young lawyer to do so.
    On being the assassin of suppression: Your right I have no wins of motion to suppress attached to my SPN/SBN on the Harris County website, however, I have won two felony drug suppression hearings, one right after the jury was picked in the 232nd and the other just a normal motion to suppress. Again my mentor and friend helped me prep for these hearings and gave me the full rains and I did not disappoint. As for my own cases I have set a total of 6 for Motion to Suppress hearings/been attached to trial and sent in memorandums to the DA’s office and every single time they have dismissed my cases. I cannot help that I never got to actually win the thing in court. Assassin of suppression to me isn’t deceptive, every night I spend roughly 30 minutes going through the LaFave treatise and the Texas Criminal Practice Manuel on 4th Amendment search and seizure as I feel this will one day leave me with a full grasp on search and seizure issues and able to provide the best possible to service to my clients. I just don’t feel that assassin of suppression is deceptive, if anything it’s corny and I should probably change it as a big time drug dealer is most likely going to find that amusing.
    On Premier DWI attorney: your right I am not Gary Trichter or Troy McKinney or Doug Murphy or Mark Thiessen or Jed Silverman. Those guys are my idols and I would love to be half as good as they are one day. In fact a few of the attorneys have sent me some DWI clients from Trichter & Murphy when they could no afford their fees. First thing one of those clients told me was “man those guys know their shit.” I smiled and agreed that yeah man those guys are the best, they have been doing it forever and have truly mastered their craft. I also through some of those attorneys have complied a nice little database on DWI law, gas chromatography transcripts, and purchased over $1,000 in books/treatises on the subject. Your right I have not tried a single DWI case under my SPN/SBN, but every single DWI I have is still pending and 90% of them will likely be headed to trial if the DA doesn’t dismiss due to the issues I have with some of the stops. As far as understanding the flaws with the FSTs, I worked as an intern at the DA’s office for over a year. I tried around 7-8 cases during this time against some of the best in Jed Silverman and Steve Gonzalez, and Doug Murphy and Jon Stevenson and I quickly learned how flawed those tests are, how to use chapters 7 and 8 of the NTHSA manual to destroy an officer, and how to attack any chemical tests that I tended to introduce. I feel I do know the flaws with those tests and have had over a years worth of experience in evaluating DWI cases to back that up.
    It should be also noted that yes I am extremely young and the good genes my mom passed onto me probably makes me look like an 18 year old. I get jokes/maybe serious comments from judges and clients wondering if I am old enough to practice law. As far as the effect this has on me and my website, I have never once had a client be so enthralled with my website that they have sent in a check and hired me without first meeting and talking with me. Most of my clients come in and ask “man how long have you been practicing?” to which I always reply that I passed the bar in May and opened up my shingle in June. I’m not going to lie I always cringe at this question because I feel they must be worried about me, however, after talking with me most of them end up hiring me explaining that while I may be young and not as experienced as other lawyers they talked to, they get a good feeling about, know that I am hungry, and seem like a person they feel comfortable talking to and trusting.
    Lastly, on whether I am competent to handle felony cases. I have a great mentor in Gilbert Villarreal, who is always no more than an office a way. Combine that with the fact that in that little office building alone there is over 100 years of criminal trial lawyer experience and I feel I have some great minds to go to, which they can attest to that I do. I’m constantly sitting in Gilbert’s office picking his mind and getting over obstacles I come to in my own cases. As far as clients paying me too much, while my prices don’t show up in the district clerk’s website, I assure you I don’t make that much money and have gotten several cases dismissed without being paid a single dime, mainly because they were younger kids who I just wanted to help and they had a good case. Further know every single client has left the courtroom whether it is on probation, with their case dismissed, or off to jail knowing that I did everything and fought for them Case in point this week on 12/9 when a client who was facing 25 years to Life and who’s previous attorney had gotten him a 5 year TDC offer received 6 years DADJ and got to keep our right of appeal, which we will be exercising on my pre trial motion to quash under the theory of in pari materia.
    I say all this in my defense. I will likely tone down my site some as I feel you have valid concerns, however, next time before blogging about me just ask me in person/phone my justifications for something and I’ll either have a response or admit I am totally wrong and work to change it.
    I agree that there are plenty of lawyers out there who oversell on their websites, however, I hope you see I am a little different than those. I am wanting to learn, wanting to master my craft, and my goal is to be the best. I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong or ask for help and do so constantly. I’m human and I’m a young lawyer, but there are at least a few who truly know me that can vouch for my character, even some judges who are currently petitioning to have me sent on scholarship to the defense trial lawyers college which I have been told I may not have enough experience yet to attend.
    In the meantime I am set to pick a jury today in Court 1 in Harris County on an indecent exposure case. If you get a chance stop in and see what you think. I am learning and open to any and all critiques. I’ve spent quite a bit of time prepping and think with a little magic I have a chance of walking my client.

    • tl;dr: Everything can be rationalized. Dunning-Kruger Effect at work.

      Maverick, the smart thing to have done when I suggested that you take the site down would have been to take it down and fix it, but you took my kind offer as the opening of some sort of negotiation, which it wasn’t.

      The smart thing to do now would be to take your site down until you have had time to fixed it. But by my count you’ve got 57 cases pending, which is way too heavy a load for a solo lawyer to take on and do a good job, so you may not have time to fix it.

      • I have submitted the corrections and it should be updated soon. The way the company works I can’t just shut the site down whenever I choose I have to get them to do it, which is why I was powerless on that front yesterday evening. I have called and emailed them and they will be taking care of everything in due course.

        • Not being in direct control of your website is not good—you need a kill switch—but I’m glad you’re going to fix it. I may not have caught everything. I just skimmed your website, and didn’t nitpick it. Restore my faith. Your selling points are youth, energy, passion, and hard work, not “experience,” “premierness,” and “assassin-ness.”

          Do a good job and tell the truth. Be fastidious about the truth. If you are good, you’ll have more work than you want.

  6. I liked Mr. Ray’s response. I’m thinking a mens rea defense is appropriate here and I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, cleaning up (if that’s the right phrase) the website is job one, as Mr. Bennett correctly points out.

    Overall, though, I was impressed with Mr. Ray’s tone and detailed response. (Mark, you might get along with this fellow, under the right circumstance.)

    • Maverick and I do—or at least did, and will continue to unless I hurt his feelings too badly—get along just fine. His deceptive advertising doesn’t make him particularly special. It’s the spirit of the times, and there aren’t many lawyers who resist it.

  7. Reading Maverick’s defending argument made me cringe, not because it is filled with excuses and rationalizations but because he is in desperate need of an editor who will teach as well as correct him.
    A lawyer who does not differentiate between “rains” and “reins;” a lawyer who writes “who’s previous attorney;” a lawyer who does not recognize his mistakes needs to hire an editor before he publishes anything. Or invest in a ghost writer.

  8. Mr. B., just think, back in the bad ol days, any lawyer could take out an ad in what was known as the Yellow Pages and simply pass out business cards in the church parking lot. Marketing, assumptions & anxiety drove folks to call the first on the list, explaining the overcrowded Attorney section beginning with an A or two or three.

    The advertised claims’ (in bold type face), allowed the caller to assume he / she was correctly culling out the ones ‘not’ qualified to assist ‘prior’ to dialing (something about ‘One’ phone call goes here). I have no idea what one had to do in order to get a firm’s sticker placed on the front of the one & only pay phone in the lock ups? But, you can bet that the anxious callers’ assumed they where experienced & qualified to perform basic criminal defense functions or, their number wouldn’t be there.

    As for the word of mouth referrals, they were (and still are) based on rumors and egos backed up with free consultations chocked full of claims’. Sometimes, it took upwards to 120 days (some learning it years afterwards) to learn that you or, your family hired a Divorce / Estate specialist to represent you in a felony jury trial (and according to the clerk’s info, ‘your’ case popped his cherry).

    *The sad f*#%ed-up part of this time machine lesson is – there were absolutely no Public Heroes or humans that dared or, cared to critique or vett these claims’ (including the Yellow Pages, the lock-ups or the families trying to scrape up enough to avoid the sell-out court appointed plea punks).

    Despite it being way too late to do anything about it for the earliest victims’ of lying scumbag’s w/ degrees’), we have: Mr. B., Mr. Greenfield & Mr. Fickman to thank for taking time to cull out those currently advertising outlandish claims’ (either by mistake or, due to greed) in an effort to restore faith in a profession as a whole. As of today, Mr. Ray is a better person and hopefully defends more clients’ vs, Tapping them all Out, which would make him a better criminal ‘defense’ lawyer. I’m from Texas and if anyone critiques this, something about the horse you rode in on, goes here & have a good day. Thanks.

  9. I write Maverick off as a failing of our entire business model. I am as guilty as the rest of you in my use of the Internet for business production and my view is we have opened the door to people like Maverick. He has only these business models to emulate. He looks at our websites and believes he cannot immediately compete in this business without lying about his credentials? By any standard, he has nothing to offer over the experienced lawyers you mentioned in your column. So he simply tags himself as an experienced “assassin” as if he were selling vacuum cleaners. He is further emboldened by the State Bar, which rubber-stamps his website because it has no method by which to check the truth of its content.

    But is this his fault? Do we provide this kid with the right examples of professionalism? Can we even provide these examples in this competitive market for criminal defense lawyers? Maverick has decided to do things the easy way, and time will tell whether this comes back to bite him in the ass. It scares the hell out of me when he talks about handling first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault cases right out of the box. These individuals for whom he is taking responsibility have their entire lives to lose from negligent representation. Maverick’s claim to have actually performed some “first chair” duties is sad. An actual Sexual Assault trial is no place to learn from your mistakes.

    However, Maverick sees his occupation as sales. He is young, with a personal overhead that probably is dominated by student loans and apartment rent. He can afford to undercharge for his services and his clients can choose to believe whatever they want about the value of his service. If Maverick is lucky, no irreparable harm will result as he rides up the learning curve. If he is not, tragedy will occur to his clients and his reputation. However, Maverick is only one of many lawyers who will take this path in the future. In my view, we only have ourselves to blame.

    • Ed, thank you for the comment. Are you saying that the corruption spreads from the top (established lawyers) down rather than the other way?

      (Every time you write, I miss your blog. I wish you would start it again.)

  10. Seems like “Houston’s Premier DWI Attorney” should have at least tried A case as a defense attorney. Probably more than A case. And maybe also know that Texas does not use a “Breathalyzer 5000” as stated on your site! Scary. Then again, maybe I’m just bitter that I was left out of your top DWI lawyer list!

  11. You made some good points about internet advertising. It would be more helpful if you could tell those of us who need a good attorney how to get one. I’ve talked to several, found them willing to take my money but I’m not sure any can do the job.

    • That’s a much tougher question than it should be. I think the best approach is the indirect one: ask other lawyers in the same field who they would recommend. I expect that you’ll find something like a consensus.

  12. You’ve got to be joking. I thought you were astute criminal defense lawyers. All I have thus far read is a critique of deception in the making. Criticizing a young eager defense lawyer who aims higher than the defense lawyers who compete against each other is an anomaly that carries less weight than the pro se litigant. Lawyer bashing as a past time is ugly and for experienced defense misers to critique an anxious, energetic stallion to come out swinging is a breath of fresh air. Go Maverick. I bet he surpasses Bennett in the stretch to the finish. In the end, Maverick will be a “force to be reckoned with.”

    • All I have thus far read is a critique of deception in the making.

      I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a good thing.

      Criticizing a young eager defense lawyer who aims higher than the defense lawyers who compete against each other is an anomaly that carries less weight than the pro se litigant.

      It’s nice that Ray has friends clients willing to defend him. It’s too bad they’re incomprehensible.

      Lawyer bashing as a past time [sic] is ugly and for experienced defense misers to critique an anxious, energetic stallion to come out swinging is a breath of fresh air.

      Oooh. A maverick and a stallion too.

      Go Maverick. I bet he surpasses Bennett in the stretch to the finish. In the end, Maverick will be a “force to be reckoned with.”

      I hope so. I’m not in competition with Ray or any other lawyer: if I wanted a hundred cases I’d have them. I’m on Ray’s side, but I’m more on the side of those he’s going to hurt because of his foolishness.

  13. I find your vicious cyberbullying attack on this young lawyer to be pretty bizarre. He was responsive to the fairly dubious claim by you of false representations (“experienced” and “premier” are fluff words that any moron in the consuming public is perfectly familiar with, for example). But that still wasn’t enough to satisfy you. You’re not a state bar official. The man is trying to make a living and I rather admire the spunk in his response to you. Get off your high horse.

    • Neil, I find your standards for calling something a “vicious cyberbullying attack” quite low.

      Ray was responsive to me after I posted. Before he became the lesson, when he had an opportunity to learn for free, he wanted to negotiate. That was foolish. Wisdom, a necessary attribute for criminal-defense lawyers, can only be garnered through experience.

      Lawyers should be expected not to use deceptive fluff words, but “Houston’s premier” isn’t mere fluff—it’s a lie, in violation of TDRPC 7.02(a)(3). That the State Bar failed to catch this in its pro forma review of Ray’s website is symptomatic of the State Bar’s fecklessness.

      When the State Bar is ineffectual, lawyers need to act to clean up the profession.

      We all have different approaches. Rather than sue people in justice court when they do socially harmful things, I blog about them.

      • Oh, right, because google-stalking random anecdotes about people who criticize you is any less bizarre than your weird anti-Maverick Ray campaign.

        I think you are far more excited about nailing someone to the wall for the purpose of generating excitement on your blog, than you are in protecting the public.

  14. […] If you are caught lying or cheat­ing or steal­ing (directly or through some­one else) you are not enti­tled to a friendly email ask­ing you to stop lying or cheat­ing or steal­ing. You may, if the per­son who caught you is feel­ing very char­i­ta­ble, get such an email. If that hap­pens, you are extra­or­di­nar­ily lucky, but you will prob­a­bly ignore it or treat it like the open­ing of a nego­ti­a­tion. […]

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