Quote of the Day - The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.
Avvo-cadabra; It's Got Me As A Cadaver
A brand new website called Avvo purports to mathematically rank lawyers without bias, favoritism and according to "how well a lawyer could handle your legal issue." But for others who tested the site, however, it gave lawyer who is now a disbarred felon serving time in jail the same rating as two sitting US Supreme Court Justices. It's a bit troubling when a jailhouse lawyer ranks equal to those we trust to render decisions affecting the basic fabric of our Constitutional law.
Bob Ambrogi's post notes that CNET's Declan McCullagh takes the ranking system to task. The CNET reporter documents Avvo's claim that Abraham Lincoln is still licensed to practice law after 171 years and can still update his profile. McCullagh also notes it's "riddled with bizarre errors, profiles of attorneys who have been dead for more than a century and inexplicable scores in which some felons received better ratings than law school deans and internationally renowned litigators."
Ambrogi himself is no fan: "Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito each receive overall scores of 6.5 out of 10 and ratings for experience and trustworthiness of three stars out of five. By contrast, Avvo CEO Mark Britton is given a score of 8 out of 10 and experience and trustworthiness ratings of four out of five. Are we to conclude, then, that Mr. Britton would be a better choice of lawyer than either Justice Ginsburg or Justice Alito? Avvo board member and Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode is rated a perfect 10 and given five stars for experience and trustworthiness. Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan earns only a 6.4 rating and three stars for experience and trustworthiness. Should Prof. Rhode take over Dean Kagan's job?," Ambrogi postulates. How about the 6.5 rating Stanford Law Dean Kathleen Sullivan received after flunking the California Bar the first time? Statistically, you would think she's less qualified than the "good" rating she received.
As for me, what do I know? According to the site, I'm deceased after practicing law for some 56 years, which is quite a feat given that I'm really only 50, and actually graduated law school just 20 years ago.
And as for the ranking system, I've got at least two different ratings, one for practicing in Washington (where I was admitted to practice two years ago), and another for California (where I was admitted in 1988) (see the last link). I'm also admitted in Iowa and Massachusetts, but not ranked in either state because Avvo hasn't gotten that far yet. After posting this commentary, I will do what I can to straighten out with Avvo the issue of my alleged death, especially since I still have my birth certificate and haven't yet collected my death certificate, at least as far as I know.
But if I'm dead as I write this, then what does that make Avvo? A ranking system rife with errors and of questionable benefit, in this writer's humble opinion.
But perhaps there's hope yet: at least Avvo recognizes that Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address (listed under his "speaking engagements"), and wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment (listed under his "publications"). Unfortunately, the site doesn't report when Lincoln spoke (1863) and published the Proclamation (1862). The Constitutional Amendment was actually written, however, in 1863 by two Senators and a Congressman, not Lincoln - points missing from his Avvo profile.
Oh. More errors. Oops.
6/15/07 Update: Avvo has been sued by a Seattle criminal defense lawyer, John Henry Browne, over the ratings. He was a guest on this week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast, which will be posted on Monday, June 18, 2007. Despite numerous invitations, Avvo refused to participate in the podcast.
As regular readers know, MIPTC is fairy fastidious in not posting about other lawyers or judges' behavior. Every once in a while, however, there's just one you can't resist.
The poetic Texas judge has struck again with this poem about a dispute between two lawyers in a deposition who couldn't solve their problem on their own and asked the Court for help. Click on that last link for some judicial humor and guidance. A tip of the hat goes to Robin Gotshall of Seyfarth Shaw's Boston office for forwarding it to a friend, who forwarded it to me.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Covers The TB Crisis
A 31-year-old personal injury lawyer out of Atlanta, Andrew Speaker, stirred up an international public health emergency when he traveled to Europe after being diagnosed with a drug resistant form of tuberculosis. On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we will talk about the legal liability of this specific case. What can happen to Andrew Speaker legally? Can he be disbarred? As a lawyer, should he have known better? We will also discuss the doctors' liability. Did they give him permission to fly? Are they at fault?
Join me as I get some insight from our guests: Professor Stephen Bainbridge, William D. Warren Professor of Law at UCLA and Dr. Robert Klitzman, co-founder of the Columbia University Center for Bioethics and an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Please join us!
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Explores China's Legal System
Today on Lawyer to Lawyer, we talk to three attorneys to discuss their trip to China and ask them about the development of the legal system there, what they learned and what they are bringing back to our legal system here in the States. We will also speak to another attorney who will give us his outlook on his experience as a lawyer born and raised in Hong Kong.
Join me and my fellow Law.com blogger and co-host Robert Ambrogi as we welcome Nicholas Connon, from the firm Connon Wood Scheidemantle LLP, Malcolm S. McNeil, partner in the Los Angeles office of the Hawaii based law firm, Carlsmith Ball, Neville Asherson, Senior Partner in the law firm Asherson, Klein & Darbinian and Roderick Miller, lead partner in the law firm of Miller Peart, which is based in Hong Kong. Don't miss it!
Fourth Circuit Denies Copyright To Non-unique Website
When you view a colored map of the United States on a website and then click on a particular state to find the subject matter available in that website, do you believe you're using copyrightable materials? The United States Copyright Office doesn't think so, and neither does the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
But in case you're looking for the standard on how to determine whether a technical drawing is copyrightable, here it is: "[i]n order to be copyrightable, a work of the visual arts must contain a minimum amount of pictorial, graphic, or sculptural authorship" and "[c]opyright does not protect familiar shapes, symbols, and designs . . . [or] mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, fonts, or coloring," as quoted by the Court in its opinion.
In other words, to be copyrighted, it has to be unique. A map of the United States isn't that unique, and therefore doesn't qualify.
Try telling that to the National Geographic cartography division.
State Cannot Take Your Property Without Notice To You
The Ninth Circuit ruled that the State of California simply cannot take property that you have left unclaimed without giving written notice designed to reach you. Publishing in a newspaper is not enough notice.
Just in case you don't read the newspaper or check your mail, you can check your unclaimed property here. I did, and found at least two amounts due me - one for $27.21 and $87.51.
So You Want To Become A Blogger? Here's How, And How You Can Cash In.
Here's a little bit of shilling for an upcoming webinar that Larry Bodine and I are offering (and yes, we will get paid from the fees charged).
In this live Webinar, please join me and fellow veteran blogger Larry Bodine, Esq., author of the LawMarketing Blog, describe how a blogs attract new clients and generate new revenue. Attendees will get step-by-step instructions and practical techniques to harness a blog for business development. You can click here to sign up for this event.
Webinar Date: Thursday, June 7, 2007, Noon Central Time
Location: On the Web, on your computer.
There are 1,800 active law firm blogs and lawyers post 117,000 posts on an average day. Done properly, a blog will attract clients, generate fee revenue, spark calls from the news media and establish a national reputation for you.
Contact Laura Kresich: (312) 217-3895
or email Lkresich@LawMarketing.com
Registration fee: $300
Sign up online at http://www.pbdi.org/pages/cceventform.asp?EventID=152
As you may know I started this weblog, MayItPleaseTheCourt.com in August 2004. You'll find posts here focusing on legal news and observations, which have brought our firm a significant amount of legal business. Thanks to the blog, his practice has grown in complex business litigation involving environmental, real estate, land-use and computer matters and their respective insurance coverage and related tort issues. MIPTC has also generated interviews from news reporters at the New York Times, Business Week and other national publications.
Larry Bodine, a lawyer and business development advisor in the Chicago area, launched his LawMarketing Blog in April 2004 at http://blog.larrybodine.com/. It quickly became a leading online destination for information on how law firms can get new clients and generate new business. The site attracts hundreds of visitors per day, many of whom call Larry to retain him for new projects. Because many visitors are from the news media, he has appeared on national television and been quoted in numerous legal news publications.
Who should attend
Attendees will get practical, how-to information on creating and tuning up a blog to generate more business and increase revenue. Among the topics Williams and Bodine will cover are:
Which topics to write about to attract clients and make you money.
How often to post new material and finding the time to write new material.
Easy ways to find content for your blog.
Getting the news media to call you and winning the "race to the keyboard."
Promoting your blog and creating buzz about it.
Developing a distinctive voice that attracts visitors.
Elements of a money-making blog post.
What topics to write about and which topics to keep away from.
Common blogging mistakes and how to avoid them.
The importance of a professional design, your photo and use of graphics.
How to keep track of other bloggers -- and see what they are saying about you.
A case history of a successful lawyer blog, and how you can duplicate it.
Blogosphere Strewn And Littered With Corpses Of Anonymous Bloggers
The latest and perhaps one of the most expensive falls of an anonymous blogger happened this week after Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Massachusetts's Suffolk Superior Court, where he defended himself in a malpractice suit over the death of his 12-year-old patient resulting from an alleged misdiagnosis of the child's diabetes. Lindeman had been blogging anonymously under the nom de plume "Flea," a derogatory term surgeons called him in medical school because he was studying to be a pediatrician.
Flea blogged the trial everyday, and included details only someone who had been attending the trial would know. Opposing counsel noticed, and she (nicknamed by Flea as "Clarissa Lunt, a nail biter") confronted him with his blogging on the stand. It turns out the blogging was not flattering to the trial, and likewise not to Dr. Lindeman's benefit in the trial. As an example, according to a Boston Globe article about the event, "In April, before the trial began, he wrote about meeting with an expert on juries who advised him how to act when he was cross-examined. Flea was instructed to angle his chair slightly toward the jury, keep his hands folded in his lap, and face the jury when answering questions, slowly. 'Answers should be kept to no more than three sentences,' he wrote."
Within a day after the Plaintiff's counsel questioned Dr. Lindeman about his blog, the case settled. The blog is now down, and although you can read three pages of it on The Wayback Machine, there's nothing that relates to the malpractice case. It is, however, obvious that the anonmymity Dr. Flea thought he had allowed him to blog about events and people he shouldn't have blogged about, such as particulars of his patients and their visits to his office and the hospital. Other local bloggers recognize the dangers, and changed some of their posts.
Anonymous blogging encourages a certain freedom in writing that can be dangerous. Witness Washingontonienne, who now faces an invasion of privacy lawsuit arising from her anonymous description of sexual escapades with a man who did not want to be publicly outed. Anonymous blogging allows a double cachet - the writer feels able to say more than good taste, social mores and perhaps the law may otherwise allow, and the reader voyeuristically enjoys an insight not otherwise available. There are even recommendations on ways to unmask anonymous bloggers, although they do enjoy some level of First Amendment protections despite the six degrees of anonymity. Others scorn anonymous bloggers.
The apparent double win frequently leads to a major loss for the anonymous blogger. David Lat, a former U.S. Attorney started "Underneath Their Robes" offering sometimes startling insights into federal judges. Lat voluntarily left his job after being discovered.