Archive for the ‘Spam’ Category

Using Sandy Hook Massacre for Law Firm Marketing? (Updated x2)

1/4/13 – Update - this post has been modified where indicated to remove the name of a law firm and add the name of marketing firm. Explanation below.

1/9/13 – Update - The comment might have been left by a “Negative SEO” company trying to use this blog to damage someone else. Explanation below.
———————–

I’ve written before about the dangers of lawyers outsourcing their marketing to others, because marketing and legal ethics are intertwined. Thus was born the simple formula:

outsourcing marketing = outsourcing ethics

But it isn’t just ethics that get outsourced. Those who outsource their marketing are also outsourcing their brains. Why? Because now you have an agent writing on the web on your behalf. The fact that something might not violate the code of professional responsibility doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid and humiliating.

Now comes today’s example. In late December I wrote about a fundraising event for Sandy Hook (12 Miles to Newtown). I don’t need to explain the many levels of horribleness of the massacre of children.

But because the New Jersey law firm of [redacted] apparently outsourced its marketing, this piece of tripe was posted in the comments:

Its a good way to show that, people are still care for each others.
Thanks for this!!!
It was a phase which is gone so now we have to move on.

The  writer is listed as haddonfield new jersey law firm, which is obviously the first clue to spam. The second clue is the link to the website embedded with the name. The third clue is the Gmail address of bobbywilson315@gmail.com.

But the final clue is, of course, the meaningless gibberish, which is definable as crap unrelated to the posting. Really now, “It was a phase which is gone so now we have to move on”?

Congrats to [redacted] for having someone write this in their name. Well played gentlemen, well played.

And now an offer to the firm — an idea I poached from Popehat and have used before– if you are willing to cough up the name of your godawful marketing company, I will modify this post.
———–
1/4/13 Update: Last night Drew Rigler of Impact Internet Marketing in New Jersey contacted me via email, aghast at what had happened. His small company does the Internet marketing for the law firm.

He says that everything they currently do is in house, and that their one attempt to outsource the creation of an app did not work out well. There isn’t anybody overseas that is paid to make comments on blogs. (The IP address for the comment spam says India.)

As I type, he said he is scrambling to find out how this happened. Now you would think that anyone looking to save their skin would claim to be aghast, right? But Rigler had this to say also, in his very first email to me:

I stand by our client and if you wish to drag anyone through the mud, feel free to use my name, my company, but not the great lawyers and team at [the law firm that hired us]. This is in no way reflective of them as a company or a firm.

That is an upstanding comment to make that I simply can’t take issue with.

I expect to update this again after Rigler completes his investigation. Since he (and the law firm) have a vested interest in finding out who did this and why, I expect that I will hear back from them.
———–
1/4/13 Update - Rigler got back to me again to let me know that their current belief is that a “Negative SEO” company was trying to damage the law firm, by dropping comment spam here and hoping that I would write about it.  While I know there are bad people in this world — and that such black hat tactics might go on in politics —  I never knew that a company could be founded on that principle and then target lawyers for its “marketing.”

And yet, Rigler tells me that such a company had actually pitched its services to one of the lawyers previously, which they obviously rejected, and then two bits of subtle attack popped up. One was here and one was elsewhere (which he showed me). He also gave me a link to the company that does it, which I won’t share so as not to give it any link juice.

Why did this happen? Was it anger by a company whose entreaties were spurned? A competitor hiring it? Someone testing the waters to see what happens? I don’t know.

Caveat Jurista.

Keeping Blog Spam At Bay (Akismet and WordPress)

Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield had a nice little piece about a spammer claiming to go by the name of Tom Sanders. “Tom,” it seems, wants Greenfield to pay him money to leave blog comment spam. Greenfield — noting that he got 500 comment spams overnight — has some fun with this pathetic excuse for a human.

And so I wondered, how much blog comment spam do I get? I’ve had spam problems before, most irritatingly from law firms because they should know better than to outsource their marketing since it’s tied to ethics. But I don’t get as much as I used to.

Why has the problem seemed to diminish for me? After I changed over to WordPress from Blogger a year ago, my techie guy installed a widget called Akismet. Not only does it do a great job keeping out the spam — I just checked and saw 23,000+ were blocked in the last 60 days — but it has a great feature that I use that Blogger didn’t have when I left it.

And that feature is that, when spam comes through, I get the pleasure of marking it as spam. And Akismet learns from it. The info is sent to its central computer brain, and applies it to its database. In other words, when the spam comes in I get the satisfaction of knowing I am helping to block that loser from getting spam through to others. It is, as far as I can tell, the only good part about spam; I get to give the spammer an electronic kick in the shins.

Here is a little bit more about how it works:

When comments are submitted to your blog, the Akismet plugin analyses them, consults the Akismet servers, and if the comment is identified as spam, it moves the comment to your spam section. The comments remain there so that you can review them if you wish. If you do nothing, Akismet will delete it in 15 days, but if you review a comment and decide that it is not spam, when you click the not spam link, this sends details about the comment to the Akismet servers so that they can learn from your decisions. As more users put the service on their blogs, it gets better and better at identifying what is spam from what is not. Imagine the power behind that, and how much it could add to email spam suppression if they could apply that to email!

Of course, there is at least one law professor that actually likes spam. Go figure. I assume it’s because no one reads the blog and pays it much attention. So go follow Greenfield’s link and be sure to let said blogger know that, in the wise words of so many spammers: Your site is very useful. I will bookmark it for later use. Or, you can use the elegant prose of this literary giant:

If possible, as you on expertness, would you brainpower updating your blog with more information? It is hellishly utilitarian in behalf of me.

 

Accidents Direct Is Spamming Me


Apparently, yet another one of the many accident attorney search companies failed to get the memo: If you drop comment spam in my blog I will give you more than you bargained for. Reading the “Notice to Spammers” in the sidebar would have been helpful.

So Accidents Direct, a company I never previously heard of, appears to think it would be nice to come over to my little piece of property here and put graffiti on my house.

Notice to those lawyers that are thinking of hiring Accidents Direct: If you outsource your marketing to this outfit, then you run the risk of outsourcing your ethics to a spammer. That is probably not what you want to do.

Oddly enough, this is a U.K. company, so they also appear to be wasting money by trying to trash my site.

But perhaps the worst part is that the spammer, who identifies herself as “Catherina,” elected to insult me in the process, starting her spam with this:

your blog is awesome and informative. Our service is also similar, I hope it will be useful to your visitors too….

Gives me shudders.

If enough people out the spammers, whose conduct further hurts the reputations of attorneys, then fewer people/companies will spam.

Martindale-Hubbell Q&A On Spam Campaign; Promises Full Accounting; Will Attempt to Notify All Victims

Martindale-Hubbell, the 140 year old attorney directory company, has responded to questions raised after it’s agent was caught sending spam to law blogs. Among its promises are a full public accounting for the incident(s) and an attempt to notify all of the law blogs that were defaced by its spammer.

Earlier this week I noted that MH was spamming my blog. MH subsequently acknowledged that they outsourced marketing to another company that spammed blogs, and also offered to answer questions about the incident.

The questions/answers below were too long for comments, and are presented here. Responses comes from Derek Benton, Director of International Operations at Martindale Hubbell International:


ET:     If MH claims to be a leader in social media, why is it outsourcing the social media to others?

DB: In this case we were outsourcing our SEO to an agency, just as we outsource plenty of other Web pieces. The team in the UK (MHI) recently changed to a new CMS [ed: content management system] and as a result we saw a drop off in traffic to our co.uk. site.  To quickly address the issue, we hired an agency in late September to help bring our traffic back up to pre-CMS deployment numbers.  We didn’t have the bandwidth on our team to do it ourselves. We hired the agency with the understanding that we would approve everything and that has not been the case.  The agency’s understanding was different.  We are now discussing why there was a miscommunication. All SEO work with this vendor has been halted whilst we investigate.

ET:  After MH outsourced to Gilroy’s company, did Gilroy outsource it elsewhere?

DB:  Yes he did.  Outsourcing is a common practice to help reduce labour costs.

ET:  Will MH make the results of its internal investigation public, so that others can learn from it?

DB:  Absolutely. We’d be happy to have somebody do a guest blog post on the matter here if you’d like?

ET:  Will MH identify the blogs that were defaced by Gilroy’s company? Because they have that information for you. (Gilroy’s site includes this feature: “We offer the following link building submission service … if you want it, we’ll give you a screenshot for each submission. This way you will know the job has been done really well.”

DB:  I can’t answer this on behalf of another company, but will try to find out. The quote and link you used above actually relates to their directory submission service, so I don’t know whether the screenshot applies in this instance.

ET:  Will MH follow-up with each of the blogs that were defaced?

DB:  Per the above, if we can identify them, absolutely.

ET:  I note on your blog that MH is holding a webinar on social media, which is “a series of online events bringing together some of the legal profession’s top social media evangelists to share their knowledge and tips on the practical uses of social media.” (Irony noted.) Will you be using this experience as a teaching moment?

DB: We’ve certainly learned from the experience, yes.  That said, our webinar series is more about bringing experts together to discuss key issues than it is about us (MH) broadcasting our opinions. We’re not for a minute defending spamming, nor have we ever done so, I’m not sure whether there’s a teaching moment in there.  Don’t spam is about the extent of it.

Links to this post:

December 11 roundup  
Key Obama regulatory appointees at NHTSA (auto safety) and FTC [commerce, antitrust] used to work for AAJ, the trial lawyers’ lobby [Wood, PoL]; “Adventures in Lawyer Advertising: Muscle, Talent, Results, and Terrible Acting” [Above the

posted by Walter Olson @ December 11, 2009 12:11 AM
 
Flip Side of the Spam Scam  
Scammer/Spammers are nothing if not agile. And so, while Eric the Turk at New York Personal Injury Blog pursues the scandalous Martindale-Hubbell Spammer-Palooza, fellow New York blawger Andrew Bluestone at New York Attorney Malpractice
posted by SHG @ December 04, 2009 10:36 AM

Martindale-Hubbell Apologizes For Blog Spam; Suspends Spammer; Promises to Answer Questions

Martindale-Hubbell has apologized for blog spam left on my site, using the comments area of my prior post for that purpose. MH has also agreed to publicly answer questions about the incident.

According to Derek Benton, the Director of International Operations at Martindale Hubbell International, it is not the company’s policy to spam blogs, but that “it appears that a vendor acting on our behalf may have done so.” That vendor/spammer is a British marketing outfit called Conscious Solutions, whose Sales and Marketing Director, David Gilroy, posted in the comments yesterday to take responsibility for what happened.

Conscious Solutions claims on its home page that part of its mission is “search engine optimisation and other online marketing techniques helps drive more revenue into your firm.” Does spamming law blogs drive revenue to MH?

After apologizing, Gilroy went on to write that “we do look for opportunities to comment on blogs, but the comment you identified should NEVER have been posted on ANY blog….”  In other words, it is the clear tactic of the marketers to run around and comment on blogs for the purpose of dropping links.  Bloggers, of course, see our comment areas as forums for discussion, not as walls for graffiti.

Why drop links in the comments of an old, popular post? It surely can’t be for readers, since the post is two years old. It can, therefore, only be intended to increase Google Pagerank.

Note to Gilroy: Comments on this blog, and oh so many others, are coded as “nofollow.” Nofollow is the direction to Google not to give any Google juice to the link. It is my understanding that this is the default on Blogger and many other popular blog platforms. I also expect that, with your expertise is marketing and search engine optimization, you already knew that. So you are not only defacing blogs with spam, but you are also wasting the money of the people that hired you.

[Addendum: Google's Webmaster Central Blog just posted on this subject: Hard Facts About Content Spam, h/t Richard Hornsby]

But let us return to Martindale-Hubbell, since they hired Gilroy’s company. MH’s Benton  went on to say in the comments that  “We’re in the process of getting to the bottom of what happened so that we can do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In the meantime the vendor has been instructed to stop all activity on our behalf.”

My opinion here is that suspension isn’t enough. Defacing law blogs is clearly reprehensible. All the more so since MH is in the law blog business.

The only way to stop blog spam is to publicize the names of the lawyers/companies that hire them. I have that policy noted in the side bar to the right.

There is no choice for MH but to fire the company, and to do it publicly. Because that is the only way to stop the practice. Marketers/spammers should know that they will lose business by spamming, not gain it.

Now on to the last part of Benton’s comment, where wrote that he would be “more than happy to address any other questions you might have, either here or via email at derek dot benton at martindale dot com.”

I prefer to do it here, in public, because I know my blog was not the only one defaced. And a public accounting of what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again, is ultimately healthy, even if temporarily painful.

So here are my questions:

1. If MH claims to be a leader in social media, why is it outsourcing the social media to others?

2.  After MH outsourced to Gilroy’s company, did Gilroy outsource it elsewhere?

3.  Will MH make the results of its internal investigation public, so that others can learn from it?

4.  Will MH identify the blogs that were defaced by Gilroy’s company? Because they have that information for you. (Gilroy’s site includes this feature: “We offer the following link building submission service … if you want it, we’ll give you a screenshot for each submission. This way you will know the job has been done really well.”

5.  Will MH follow-up with each of the blogs that were defaced?

6.  I note on your blog that MH is holding a webinar on social media, which is “a series of online events bringing together some of the legal profession’s top social media evangelists to share their knowledge and tips on the practical uses of social media.” (Irony noted.) Will you be using this experience as a teaching moment?

Links to this post

December 11 roundup  
Key Obama regulatory appointees at NHTSA (auto safety) and FTC [commerce, antitrust] used to work for AAJ, the trial lawyers’ lobby [Wood, PoL]; “Adventures in Lawyer Advertising: Muscle, Talent, Results, and Terrible Acting” [Above the
posted by Walter Olson @ December 11, 2009 12:11 AM

Martindale-Hubbell: Now Sending Comment Spam? (How Does That Rate?) — Updated


Once upon a time Martindale-Hubbell was a leader in the legal field. They had big impressive looking books with the names of lots of lawyers in them that BigLaw firms paid lots of money for so that they could put them on their shelves. They gave fancy ratings to lawyers that people in corporate law departments actually thought was important.

Wikipedia’s entry on M-H, which I suspect M-H checks religiously to guard against defacing, starts this way:

Martindale-Hubbell is a venerable brand in the legal community, known for being the defacto source for finding and connecting lawyers with other lawyers around the world since 1868.

And several days ago, this “venerable brand in the legal community” apparently left comment spam on one of my posts. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

The comment, at first blush, didn’t look like spam. It didn’t have a dozen links in it and talk about gold or cheap drugs you can buy on the web. The writer actually strung words together into sentences.

The sentences, however, had nothing to do with the post. Nothing. Nada. Zip. And it was on a post that was two years old. And the exact same sentences appear elsewhere in comments on other blogs and link back to the same M-H site.

The writer left the message on a popular post of mine from October 9,2007, entitled Don’t Post This Letter On The Internet! That post was a classic that had the Dozier Law Firm trying to copyright its cease and desist letter to prevent it from appearing on the web. Dozier threatened to sue anyone that posted it. Public Citizen called his bluff, posted it, invited Dozier to sue them, and Dozier, to the extent I could tell, ran away from the challenge with his tail between his legs. There’s a gazillion posts on the subject.

So what did M-H write last week in response to that old subject? Here it is in its entirety:

Being a representative of a law firm, reading an article and blogging and commenting on legal issues has always proved to be useful. To some extent, information given on such blogs and the comments and articles has benefited the victims facing complexities in term of legal issues and helps us also update our knowledge of what is happening around and what all complexities we should expect from our future cases.. It provides a great platform to discuss experiences and share knowledge.

In other words, M-H posted gibberish that was discernible as gibberish if you read the actual post or cared about the posting of nastygrams.

How do I know it was M-H that dropped the comment spam in my post? Because they added a link that brings you to the M-H “International Directory” at this url: http://www.martindale-hubbell.co.uk/. This is one of the many Find-A-Lawyer sites on the web.

Could this have been someone impersonating M-H? Potentially. I did, after all, write about a local defense lawyer that sued someone just last week for impersonating him and writing outrageous things. And one commenter did warn me of the potential for impersonation by rivals when I announced my policy of outing comment spammers.

But if this was a rival of M-H impersonating it, hoping I would write a post flaming the hell out of M-H, s/he would expect M-H to subpoena Google to get the information on their identity. In other words, that individual would have to have rocks in his or her head. And as between an impersonator on one hand, and a falling legal legend using spam to desperately claw its way back to relevancy on the other hand, my guess is the more obvious and logical choice: Spam. It fits with the theory of Occam’s Razor, in that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

And here is the spam as it appeared elsewhere when I Googled the first sentence: /Martindale-HubbellSpamSearch.pdf). But but when I checked one of the links, to Legal Practice Pro, I found yet a different piece of pablum [ed: subsequently removed] that also brings you to the same M-H site:

I love to read such informative articles. It is good to know what went wrong in which part of the world .. even in distant places, where we do not ever plan to physically visit, we visit there virtually and analyse the complete scene. Thanks for this piece of information to add to my experience! To share my other experiences too, recently, I have come across an article on how efficiently law firms get you the justice, which otherwise, sometimes, gets next to impossible. While reading, I realized how important it is to contact a lawyer whenever you get stuck with any legal related issues. And a family lawyer does not in any way decreases the importance of keeping an international law firms directory handy.

More gibberish. And do you know what happens when you Google one of those sentences? Do I really have to tell you it turns up yet more comment spam? Here is my search result: /Martindale-HubbellSpamSearch2.pdf. How many different pieces of spam M-H uses to camouflage its conduct is not something I know, but I think it’s safe to guess that it doesn’t stop here.

Martindale-Hubbell has been swirling down the bowl for some time now. The Internet basically destroyed their business model. Their ratings system is toast. The company’s death announced by bloggers.

Despite these problems, M-H boasted last week on its blog (what, you didn’t know they had a blog?) that it had received an award for “Excellence in New Communications.” The award was given for “innovative organizations that are pioneering the use of social media…” which gave me a good laugh, but I suppose some might consider spammers to be pioneers.

Is it possible to go lower than a spammer on the web? Probably, but I haven’t seen them use pornography to market the law firms that have hired them.

So what does this mean? It means that the most “venerable brand in the legal community” is now using one of the lowest forms of Internet “marketing” that exists: This is the cyber-equivalent of trespassing on someone’s land (their blog) for the sole purpose of plastering its advertisements. Nice.

I’ve written befefore about attorneys that outsource their marketing also outsourcing their ethics. This happens when one of the bazillion attorney search search sites that have popped up are hired to do promotion for lawyers. The lack of care when it comes to ethical violations or other abhorrent conduct can happen regardless of whether the search site is large or small. (See also, FindLaw’s scandal with respect to selling links.)

When it comes to protecting your reputation, this is one simple rule for lawyers to follow: No one cares as much about your reputation as you do. So when you entrust others to do your work, you are virtually guaranteed a lower standard of care.

Now here some questions for lawyers that use Martindale-Hubbell and give the company some of their hard-earned money:

1. How would you rate M-H?

2. How do your clients feel about spammers?

3. Since you’ve hired M-H as an agent to market for your law firm, how do you feel about your agent being a spammer?

Update: In the comments, David Gilroy, the Sales and Marketing Director of a British marketing outfit called Conscious Solutions takes responsibility for spamming on behalf of Martindale-Hubbell. This, of course, leaves us with more questions than answers, including the question of why M-H is outsourcing its marketing if it claims to be a leader in the field.  And yes, the link I provided is coded as NoFollow to insure that no Google juice goes to this company.

I assume that the response came in from Gilroy because someone at M-H was alerted to my post and forced this guy to throw himself under the bus. As of 8:25 pm when I write this update, however, I haven’t heard anything from M-H as to why they hired this company that has been spamming law blogs.

Links to this post:

Blogging: It’s a Matter of Trust
Call me old fashioned, but I believe that my word is my bond, something that you can trust. My blog is comprised of many, many words, all of which form a trusted bond that I’ve established with my audience and other bloggers.

posted by loce@his.com (Carolyn Elefant) @ December 14, 2009 5:49 PM

Social Media Brings Lawyers Back to the Future
H/T Amy Campbell’s Weblog (I threw in this video because it’s somewhat related to my post but more so for marketing to a company. My post relates to consumer marketing. Read on and you’ll see what I mean). When it comes to social media,

posted by loce@his.com (Carolyn Elefant) @ December 06, 2009 6:19 PM

Engagement versus vanity
Yesterday, I had the honor of being included in the 100 best law blogs as judged by the ABA Journal. The top 100 blogs and their authors were the subject of a feature story on the ABA Journal online. Each of the blogs were linkedin to

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 5:00 PM

Engagement versus vanity
Yesterday, I had the honor of being included in the 100 best law blogs as judged by the ABA Journal. The top 100 blogs and their authors were the subject of a feature story on the ABA Journal online. Each of the blogs were linked to in

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 5:00 PM

Martindale-Hubbell now spamming lawyers’ blogs? Are lawyers to blame?
A marketing company doing work on behalf of the legal directory Martindale-Hubbell has acknowledged spamming the comment field on New York Attorney Eric Turkewitz’ blog. Turkewitz blogged about the Martindale spamming.

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 11:24 AM

Martindale-Hubbell now spamming lawyers’ blogs? Are lawyers to blame?
A marketing company doing work on behalf of the legal directory Martindale-Hubbell has acknowledged spamming the comment field on New York Attorney Eric Turkewitz’ blog. Turkewitz blogged about the Martindale spamming.

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 11:24 AM

Incredible
I was reading this post about Martindale Hubble making strange comments on lawyers’ blogs, and what most caught my attention though was this: When it comes to protecting your reputation, this is one simple rule for lawyers to follow: No
posted by Thorne @ November 30, 2009 2:04 PM

New Spam Comment Policy for Law Firms (You Will Be Exposed)


I’m getting tired of seeing spam in the comment area of my blog that comes from law firms and attorney search services. So if it comes in again I’m going to write a fresh post about them. I’ve done this a couple of times before but now I’m going to make a policy of it.

While I expect this nonsense from the drug hustlers (findrxonline seems to love spamming me) and the gold sites and others, I don’t see that I can really do much about them except keep the comments moderated and simply reject them.

But law bloggers can do something about the law field spammers. Because unlike the other sites, these folks generally have very little Google juice and should actually care about their reputations. So if a few blogs decide to out the spammers, this could have a pretty big effect on the firms. When their names are Googled by potential clients, the potential clients will see that they are spammers. And it will no doubt cause them to stop.

If it is the crappy search engine optimization companies that they hired that are doing it on their behalf, without their knowledge, then the attorneys will still suffer. Lawyers are responsible for the acts of their agents.

I came up with this little rule about lawyer advertising when it comes to solicitation, but it applies equally well here:

Outsourcing marketing = outsourcing ethics

Perhaps, if enough bloggers do this then the lawyers that get busted for this kind of slimy stuff will fire the people responsible. And if enough SEO companies are fired by their clients for having done this in their name, then the tactic will be used less often. I’m not so naive as to think it will stop, but if it gets cut in half that would be a huge victory.

You’ve been warned.

Addendum: The spammers are not just hired by free-standing marketing companies devoted to search engine optimization, but have been hired in the past by attorney search services both large (Martindale-Hubbell) and small (LegalX).

These are some of the blogs that seem committed to outing the malfeasors, in hopes of cleaning up the lawyers’ part of the web so that our collective reputation doesn’t sink further:

    I’ll continue adding to this list as I become aware of other posts on the subject. Links to this post: 

    Blawg Review #241
    Back on 7 December 2005, I posted under the title “Pearl Harbor Day Trivia” a throwaway comment about President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “Day of Infamy” speech: December 7, 1941 was immortalized the next day in a speech by President  

    posted by Colin Samuels @ December 07, 2009 3:00 AM

    Outing Blog Comment Spammers, Starting with All States Public
    Over at the always excellent New York Personal Injury Law blog, Eric Turkewitz has adopted the policy of outing law firms’ blog comment spammers and their clients. Comment spammers troll the Internet and drop poorly written and usually  

    posted by Roy A. Mura @ December 03, 2009 10:21 AM

    Sixteen Rules for Lawyers Who (Think They) Want to Market Online
    1. If you’re looking for The Promised Land, you’re in the wrong place. This is the Wild West, Pilgrim. 2. There are clients online—sophisticated, moneyed clients—but they don’t find lawyers the way you think they do.  

    posted by Mark Bennett @ November 16, 2009 10:15 PM

    Blawg Review #238: Celebrating the International Day of Tolerance
    “We tend to idealize tolerance, then wonder why we find ourselves infested with losers and nut cases. — Patrick Nielsen Hayden “I have seen gross intolerance shown in support of tolerance.” — Coleridge. Cue the music.  

    posted by Joel Rosenberg @ November 16, 2009 1:00 AM

    Not Just Another Content Scraper. Emery Ledger’s Content Scraper
    The problem of running a blog that produces, to small small degree, original content about a topic of interest to many laypeople (in our case law) is that one gets so many sincere flatterers. Ordinary spammers are bad enough. though we
    posted by Patrick @ November 06, 2009 4:15 PM

Why is LegalX.net Spamming Me? (Ethical Issues with Attorney Search Sites) – Updated


LegalX.net is one of the gazillion attorney search sites that seem to float about the web. You pay them a fee, and they add you to their directory while they try to hustle clients. Many of them seem to me to have questionable ethics. But this one, LegalX, has been trying to spam the comments of my blog like crazy over the last couple weeks. And it appears they are doing it to others.

Now I’m used to getting comment spam from various companies hustling gold, drugs and knickknacks of all sorts. And even on occasion from lawyers. But I’ve never been hit with this kind of persistence from a law firm or lawyer search company.

This is interesting on two different levels. First, attorneys that pay these marketers have entered into, what appears to me, an agency relationship. And their agents are sending out spam. But the attorneys are likely responsible for the acts of their agents. So the hundreds of law firms that LegalX appears to have taken money from are now associated with one of the most insidious practices of the web. Due to ethics rules that exist in some places for attorney marketing, ethics and lawyering go hand-in-hand. So when a firm outsources its marketing, it also outsources its ethics.

Second, I think that there is very little that is actually gained by the spam. There is no link juice, since comments on blogs are routinely set as “do not follow” so that Google doesn’t give them any link love. Their pagerank doesn’t benefit from the practice.

And some of the posts are one to two years old. This same drivel below, for example, was presented for comment in one of the Dr. Flea posts as well as one on the Million Dollar Advocates Forum:

It is essentially important for human beings to follow laws and orders without which a man can be brutal enough harm others. It can be easily mentioned that law plays a vital role in arranging the mob in a systematic manner. So, one should never fail to follow laws of any kind, concerning anything.

It also appears to have been spammed hundreds of times on other attorney blogs, which you can discover if you Google the first part.

Awhile back, I switched over from having open comments to moderated comments that need to be approved. I didn’t want to do that, but it was the only way to keep the spam out.

In sum, LegalX appears to be engaging in a widespread spam campaign. When it comes to blogs, it’s hard to think of more reprehensible conduct from a company.

Who is LegalX that has persuaded so many law firms to turn over their cold hard cash to them? Great question. Glad you asked. And I wish I had a good answer. Its website gives a Canadian address, 7018 14th Avenue, Burnaby, British Columbia, but no names. Some further searching finds that it was for sale in October 2008 by an anonymous individual located in Los Angeles under the pseudonymfargreater.” Fargreater says that:

all seo optimization done by widecircles.com the advanced optimizers

Whether the site was sold to someone else that is doing the spamming, or it remains in this person’s hands, I don’t know. But it was also for sale (either still or again) just a month ago by someone named “Johnfa.”

I also checked out the “blog” that is on the site. I put that in quotes because the one post I read, entitled “Medical Malpractice Happens,” was in large part an unattributed rip-off (/MedMalHappens-LegalX.pdf) of this post by Patrick Malone at The Huffington Post.

Now cutting to the chase, who would want to hire a lawyer that has a mysterious company spamming for them? And yet, hundreds of law firms appear to be listed at their site. Most are likely to be unwitting dupes, though some may simply be turning a blind eye to the conduct. Either way, is that the type of lawyer someone would want? (Assuming that these lawyers have, in fact, paid to be listed on this site. Their advertising page says it is $349-489/year for a listing.)

If I were a stockbroker, I would not only mark this stock “avoid,” but also the lawyers that paid them any money.

[Note: LegalX.net is the spamming lawyer site. But there is also a LegalX.com, which is a litigation outsource support firm with a Los Angeles phone number. While both seem to have an L.A. contact, I do not presume they are related.]

Update 12/22/09: In early December I received email from someone identifying himself as “Richard Cohen,” claiming that his “organization” outsourced SEO and content writing to some other company and apologized for the spam. He never named the alleged outside company, and provided no address for himself and no means of verifying anything what he wrote.

He (if it is a “he”) also demanded that I take down the LegalX logo. I refused, based on fair use and the First Amendment. He threatened me with a DMCA take-down notice. I told him to Google “Turkewitz Avis” and to be careful of the considerable downside of filing a DMCA take-down notice without a legitimate basis for doing so.

I think any lawyer that outsources its marketing to such a company is a fool, due to the risks of outsourcing marketing (and ethics) to others.

It’s also worth noting that shortly after this email exchange took place at the beginning of December, comments started to appear on this post. There had been none from the time it was first posted on June 24, 2009 until December 7, 2009.

Links to this post:

Denver Motorcycle Lawyer Comment
I received the following comment in my inbox on Monday morning: I was just made aware that if the person who hit you is under-insured, you may be able to use your own motorcycle insurance or even your car insurance for compensation.

posted by @ October 22, 2009 2:59 PM

comment spam — from law firms
as eric turkewitz notes, “when a firm outsources its marketing, it also outsources its ethics.” tags: chasing clients, legal blogs. related posts. march 25 roundup (2); youtube lawyer ads (3); willie gary marketing tactics (2)
posted by Walter Olson @ June 25, 2009 10:26 AM

Why is SimmonsCooper Spamming My Blog? (Updated)

Every blogger gets spam. I expect it from the various hustlers who permeate the web. But I didn’t really expect it from a law firm. From a big law firm.

SimmonsCooper* is a personal injury firm in Illinois. They focus on asbestos litigation and the disease it causes, mesothelioma. According to their web site, they have 17 partners and 39 associates and of counsel talent on hand, so this isn’t a small shop.
But apparently SimmonsCooper thinks it would be a mighty fine idea to send spam advertising to my blog in the comments area.
The first message came in January 2nd, and I deleted it and ignored their transgression. Then they did it again today. The post they were spamming was a September 17, 2007 piece on the Graves Amendment and immunity for car renting/leasing companies. Not a lot there about asbestos, I’ll tell you that. But that didn’t stop them from posting this drivel: If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with blah, blah, blah.
Note to SimmonsCooper: That’s pretty scummy stuff. It’s also a waste of your time and resources because:
1. The note is old and unlikely to be read by many;
2. Those that do read it aren’t looking for an asbestos attorney; and
3. You get zero Google juice out of it because my blog, like others, has a “do not follow” command for the comments area so that spammers don’t waste their time polluting our little publications.
If you want to advertise your services, go ahead. Knock yourself out. It’s legal because of that First Amendment thingie. I’ve got a web site too. Nothing wrong with that concept. I have to hope that any lawyer that does advertise will do so in a dignified manner.
But sending spam to my blog is not dignified.
Now I’m going to take a guess here and say that SimmonsCooper hired some idiotic SEO company to spread their name around. Perhaps they are ignorant of the fouls being committed in their name, or perhaps they are simply turning a blind eye to what their agents are doing in their name. Perhaps they are just shocked, shocked, I tell you, that their agents would behave in such a slimy manner.
I can only hope they pick their experts in a better fashion than the people who do their marketing.
———————————————————-
* Link is via a TinyUrl redirect so that the spammer doesn’t profit from any Google juice due to this posting.
———————————————————-

After posting this, I receive an apologetic call from Mark Motley at SimmonsCooper. He told me that they did not approve of what had been done in their name and were embarrassed by the spam.

I’ve previously written of the risks of lawyers outsourcing their web marketing to others, in the context of those horrid attorney search services (The Ethics of Attorney Search Services). There is a danger not just on the ethics front, but on the reputation front when SEO companies sing their own praises to get your business, and then do trashy things in your name.

Motley sent on to me this email, which he asked that I publish:

Thanks for your time today on the phone. It was a pleasure meeting you.
As you and I discussed, SimmonsCooper does not have anything to do with
the spam commenting you refer to in your blog. We do not approve of
spam commenting. We have a blog ourselves and frequently receive those
sorts of messages as well. I’m sorry to have met you under these
circumstances but am glad to have found your blog. Keep up the good
work!

Regards,
Mark Motley
SimmonsCooper LLC

Links to this post:

Sixteen Rules for Lawyers Who (Think They) Want to Market Online
1. If you’re looking for The Promised Land, you’re in the wrong place. This is the Wild West, Pilgrim. 2. There are clients online—sophisticated, moneyed clients—but they don’t find lawyers the way you think they do.
posted by Mark Bennett @ November 16, 2009 10:15 PM