Internet Marketing for Lawyers: Here Be Dragons!
I wrote here about "Vikram", who was spam-commenting Defending People with bad information and a link to the website of Houston DUI lawyer [name redacted by special dispensation]. Today I got another of these spam comments, this one from "Peter", using the same email address as "Vikram" and linking to Nevada lawyer Jerry Donohue's website, which is very similar to [name]'s:
A new comment on the post #1192 "Who's Spending Your Marketing Money?" is waiting for your approval http://blog.bennettandbennett.com/2008/12/whos-spending-your-marketing-money.html Author : peter (IP: 18.104.22.168 , 22.214.171.124) E-mail : email@example.com URL : [deleted] Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=126.96.36.199 Comment: well it is good to follow ethics n business but one need to take a lok over the all other side too. Approve it: . . . [nope] Delete it: . . . [yes, and . . .?] Spam it: . . . [yes, please!]
(The same spammer's email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, was used to send this vile spam comment to another blog.) [Name] is, in my opinion, a good and conscientious lawyer, so I talked to him about the misuse of his marketing dollars (recall that "Vikram's" spam comment on behalf of [Name]'s DUI practice admonished people to just go ahead and blow when they're pulled over for DUI, because they'd spend as much money hiring a lawyer as they would just pleading guilty). [Name] told me that he'd signed up for "DUI Hotline Network" at a DUI CLE program in Las Vegas. Since Jerry's and [Name]'s identical websites are [state]duihotline.com, that's got to be who's responsible for the comment spam including erroneous and irresponsible legal advice. Except that, ultimately, [Name] and Jerry are (must be) responsible for what they are paying people to say on their own behalf. If I give my money to the marketers to hawk my services on the virtual streetcorners of the internet, I am responsible for what they say and how they say it. It's no different than if I hire a receptionist to sit in my office. I can't disclaim responsibility because I don't know what they are doing ("I only pulled the trigger; the bullet was to blame"). In fact, I have a responsibility to keep track of what they are doing, and to make them stop if they get out of line. When some ignoramus in New Delhi, on [Name]'s rupee, gives bad legal advice to get [Name] more business, [Name] is at fault. Not all of us can be good at everything. There's no dishonor in hiring someone else to do the things that you're not good at. The internet is a foreign place for many lawyers; they don't have any interest in learning the language, much less adopting the customs. There are plenty of professional marketers eager to take all of the money that lawyers are willing to throw at the problem of getting business in this strange new world. Some of those marketers are undoubtedly conversant with the ethical rules governing lawyers, and are looking out as much for their clients' reputations as their clients would themselves. But many of them are not. And they're selling bad product (unethical, sleazy, and harmful) to lawyers who don't know any better. DUI Hotline Network didn't sell [Name] and Jerry "a program of extensive comment spam". Instead, it sold
a network of websites creating good natural search engine rankings for each state’s website. By cross linking all of the sites together it helps to keep all of the site at the top of the keyword searches most fequently used keywords purchased by attorneys speicalizing in DUI and DWI defense. If used in combination with print and radio advertizing it has been proven to create more than enough DUI leads to keep an entire firm of DUI attorneys busy to each state.
And that's what makes DUI Hotline Network the Defending People Asshat of the Day. So what's the lawyer to do who knows there are clients travelling the byways of the internet, but doesn't know his way around ([Name] probably wouldn't know SEO from CEP)? Find a guide that you know you can trust, or stay off the internet until you're savvy enough to tell the good from the bad. If you can't tell the good from the bad, how do you know who you can trust? Hell if I know. It's probably not the low bidder. And it's sure not DUI Hotline Network.
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