Follow the Bouncing Hackneyed Ball

 Posted on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

A geeky little game I play with lawyers' internet advertising: from one website, I take a phrase that is unlikely to be written more than once intentionally. I google it and see who else is using the same copywriters, or who is plagiarizing whom.

So when I saw this South Carolina ethics opinion (Greenfield quoted it at length here) quoting (in Allegation A) several

false and misleading statements regarding: his experience and his associates' experience; the firm's areas of practice and past case results; the assignment of cases among the attorneys in the firm; the firm's reputation; the firm's office locations; and the foreign language ability of the firm's employees

I had to see who else had fallen into the marketing trap that got that South Carolina lawyer in trouble.

"Deep personal knowledge of the courts, judges, and other courthouse personnel" nets Gillis Leonard of Moberly, Missouri; Earl Spielman and Don D. Becker of Houston, Texas; Edwin P. Randolph of Tampa, Florida; and Conaway & Strickler of Atlanta, Georgia.

Leonard's advertising is on Service Noodle; Spielman's is "powered by Elevology"; Becker's and Randolph's are unbranded; and Conaway & Strickler's was created by Scorpion Design.

The South Carolina Supreme Court objected to the use of those words, but they're not necessarily misleading. I'd be comfortable agreeing that Don Becker has a deep personal knowledge of the Harris County courthouse personnel, and I don't think that implies improper personal influence. Spielman might have such knowledge too, but he advertises himself as "and Associates" and claims that "Each of our attorneys has a deep" etc. And he's a solo. Which, as you may have figured out by now, is a deception that annoys me, a gateway to theft and defalcation.

"Each attorney is deeply familiar with the law and procedural issues related to their clients' cases" turned up Spielman; Randolph; and Conaway & Strickler. Randolph also appears to be a solo, which would make "each attorney" deceptive. (Mr. Randolph, if you're reading this, write this down: (305) 374-7850. I have a feeling you're going to need it.)

Randolph's website also says, "Edwin P. Randolph is committed to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in meeting her client's legal challenges." The portion after his/her name, googled, turns up Svitlana E. Sangary and Chridyien (Christien, with a typo) Francis Bathe.

Sangary's website says that she is "proud to have been able to provide its clients with distinct advantages, achieve successful results for the clients, and accomplish efficient resolution of the clients' cases." Bill Moore of California uses the same language.

Moore's partner, Sergey Gladkov's "educational background and professional experience have proven to be a winning combination", which brings us back to Ms. Sangary and Mr./Ms. Randolph, as well as Shanghai (!) lawyer Benjamin Lau.

(That appears to be the end of that trail-four leaps-but sometimes I can run the table.)

Set aside whether those particular words are accurate: how do these lawyers all get the same combination of words? Who is stealing from whom?

And does this really work, this using-other-people's-words thing? Because I put a good deal of energy into thinking of my own words and putting them together in my own sentences which I then assemble into my own paragraphs, sometimes even including my own punctuation, and if using other people's words is the same thing then I think I should take up another hobby-like heavy drinking-in place of writing.

But no. I reject the proposition that it's okay for lawyers to claim the words of others as their own. We lawyers are speakers and writers, if not smiths then at least tinkers of words. Words are our tools and our weapons. With our words, we reform and change the world, making one person's life better or another's worse. We are measured by our words, and judged on them. If we are fortunate enough to contribute something enduring to the world by our practice of law, that something will be words.

The lawyer who appropriates the words of another steals from that person, defrauds the reader, and betrays himself. Even in online advertising, words matter.

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