Future's Hope

 Posted on May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

The other J-Dog, at Restoring Dignity to the Law, opines that Joseph Rakofsky is also a symptom of one of the fundamental problems of attorney oversupply and writes:

I'm ultimately your ally, Joseph, because you're a victim, just like most of our generation of law graduates. To make it into and through law school, you obviously have higher than average intelligence. And it's clear that you have an entrepreneurial spirit. You apparently made a series of major mistakes, but honestly, I don't think it's your fault. You entered a system that, sadly, is rigged against people like you and me. You were given an accredited education and a law license and told to "go get 'em." You did that, and now you're being punished because you decided to hang a shingle and do what it was you thought you were trained to do. I think you were foolish, absolutely, but the ultimate blame, I think, goes directly to the system that produced you (and, it appears, your current attorney).

Jennifer Lubinski writes:

This is not a post about Joseph Rakofsky. This is a story about Francis, a young lawyer who caught a bad break, who worked hard and was willing to learn from people more experienced than he was. This is a story about a lawyer who will probably never make the pages of the AmLaw Reporter or the Wall Street Journal or Above the Law or Twitter and doesn't care, because he enjoys his job and is proud of what he does. This is a story about a good lawyer. We need more of them.

Maybe Rakofsky was doing what he was trained to do, but somehow there are lawyers like "Francis" of Rakofsky's generation who don't do what Rakofsky did (by which I mean "marketing himself deceptively, including paying Yodle to do his deceptive advertising for him," rather than "taking on a case that he was not competent to handle without adult supervision") and succeed nevertheless. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Lubinski's "Francis" reminded me of a Houston lawyer I know. I've been meaning to blog about him for a few weeks now. He's a young lawyer, licensed since 2008, practicing immigration and criminal-defense law in Houston and somehow-without any of the puffery and false advertising that occasionally gets lawyers in trouble here-making a living. He's active in the local criminal-defense bar, and is obviously very dedicated, hardworking, knowledgeable, and intelligent. I referred an immigration matter to him recently, connected with one of my criminal cases, and he did a sterling job of handling it.

I wanted to give him props and maybe steer a little business his way. Which I'll do, but not here. Why? Because he's asked that I not use his name in connection with the subject matter of this post. Recently he sent me an email that, frankly, blew me away:

I need online lawyer marketing help.So I added [recent well-deserved honors] and now my rating is too high, 9.9. Everything on the page is totally legit, there's no puffery at all (really!). I don't want unwelcome attention. Do I take items off the page?

Yes, you read that right: he's concerned that his Avvo rating is too high and wants to know whether he should remove information to game Avvo's algorithm into giving him a lower rating. He went on to contrast himself with some of the local criminal-defense lawyers with "10" ratings.

Granted, this lawyer is exceptional. Very few lawyers of any age would consider tricking the dumb algorithm to reduce their rating to where they see themselves; most lawyers wouldn't even admit that they see themselves as anything less than a perfect ten.

And granted, I have seen many lawyers who, still slick with mold release from law school, try to present themselves to the world (and even to the local criminal-defense bar, who definitely can tell the difference) as gods of the courtroom.

But I believe-not because I've done any sort of census but because I choose to believe it-that there are more young lawyers like Francis than young lawyers like Rakofsky. More lawyers whose ethical compass points true and who heed that compass, than lawyers who will rationalize lying for a buck. Recessionary times and an oversupply of lawyers make it harder for the marginally ethical to behave ethically, but there will always be lawyers whose ethics are so extreme that they would rather go hungry than deceive to get a case; I believe that these lawyers are in the majority.

This is fortunate, because it is these lawyers-and not the relentless self-aggrandizers-who will lead the criminal-defense bar in decades to come; it is these lawyers-and not the ruthless marketers-whom those accused of serious crimes will seek out when my generation is worn out; it is these lawyers-and not Yodle's and FindLaw's clientele-who stand a chance of making a good living defending the citizen accused and the Constitution.

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