2016.010: Brown & Musslewhite

The Houston personal-injury firm of Brown and Musslewhite was ripping off Houston criminal-defense badass JoAnne Musick’s blog posts. So she did what any self-respecting lawyer/writer would do in that situation: she gave the firm a polite telephone call to ask confidentially that they remove the offending comment—

Just kidding. JoAnne did what any self-respecting lawyer/writer would do in that situation: she called Brown & Musslewhite out publicly so that from now until the crack of internet doom there will be a record of their dishonest unethical ways:

I would never hire a lawyer engaging in such practice. It’s unethical and just plain wrong. Color me offended and sad that they have chosen to use my name and my words to try and make themselves look better. Don’t try to make yourself look better; be better!

Amen, sister.

Why is writing the post better than making the call? Because — and I’m speaking from extensive experience here, having made the call time after time only to be left flat on my back like Charlie Brown — when you make that call you don’t get taken seriously. Instead you waste your time listening to excuses — “my marketer did it” — and rationalizations — “well, we gave you credit.” The extreme, by contrast, always seems to make an impression.

It makes an impression on its subject, and it makes an impression on others. If JoAnne had made the call, maybe Brown & Musslewhite would have stopped stealing content, but nobody else would have learned anything from the exercise. By posting about Brown & Musslewhite’s theft, JoAnne both discouraged others from stealing content and stopped Brown & Musslewhite from doing so—

Just kidding. Brown & Musslewhite took down JoAnne‘s content, but they still are republishing as though it is their own writing by people outside their firm: William K. Berenson, Randy Sorrels, Sam Adamo, Jr. (on HCCLAtv.com), and others.

HCCLA cares about people stealing its content, but what if none of the others care about Brown & Musslewhite stealing their content? We are not even personal-injury lawyers, for crying out loud. Shouldn’t JoAnne just mind her own business? Shouldn’t I?
Yes, absolutely, because this is profession for ladies and gentlemen, and ladies and gentlemen mind their own business—Just kidding.Lawyers minding their own business allow unethical lawyers to thrive, giving the bar a bad name. And while I joke that it’s a small fraction of the bar that gives the other 1% a bad reputation, the truth is that most lawyers are concerned with practicing ethically themselves. They would not deserve the bad name that the minority give them, except for one thing: They mind their own business. Like the majority of bad cops whose only offense is following the blue code, lawyers who don’t speak out against unethical lawyers are also unethical lawyers.
Writing is thinking. Publishing someone else’s work as though it is your own is a lie. Publishing the work of a lawyer outside your firm as though it is your firm’s is fraud: Potential clients will see it, will naturally believe it is characteristic of the firm’s thinking, and will make their decision based on what they believe is a sample of the firm’s thinking. If you think lawyers should mind their own business when they see lawyers defrauding potential clients, you are part of the problem.

9 responses to “2016.010: Brown & Musslewhite”

  1. I noticed they didn’t snatch any of my “Ask Allison” columns…sigh…can’t fault them for having good taste. Can fault them for being ridiculously unethical. Has anyone notified the other authors (non-HCCLA related) whose work was published there?

  2. As of this afternoon, my posts have not been removed (contrary to Mark’s statement above). Not that I seriously expect them to pay attention now and start cleaning things up.

  3. As a prose litigant respondent in a Florida cyberstalking appeal (that I won) i was surprised to see a couple lawfirms writing on the reversal. One inparticular looked like he took credit for the victory. Many large firms publish the appellant opinions and more than quite a few seem to leave the reader to assime their law firm was involved on the winning side.

    The irony is I asked for help in every corner of the freespeech arena and due to inaffordability had to go at it alone.

    Yet the bees nest is stirred as the queen was disturbed. So if any attorney wants credit for future defenses of free speech matters (regarding this group of affilated haters) I certainly will be an exempler probono client for the future advertising ventures of OUR victory. But for now give credit to the prose in Scott v. Blum

  4. I learned a lot and appreciate the social media giants for letting me grab ahold of their writings and apply it. Some of the brief was exactly that. But had some fact based arguments particular to my case. Learned format, presentation, and application fairly well. I even learned to shoot for the moon in 1st amendmentvas applied language yet gave them the simple way out of not meeting the elements, of which the appeals court went with in the reversal.

    I do greatly appreciate the proud attorney in twitter who discuss these issues. It was huge in the motivation toward the reversal.

    Now I look at other struggling and identify with them. Yet knowing each has to pull up their bootstraps and fight to the best of their ability.

    If I can do it anyone can!

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