Baker and McKenzie, one of the largest law firms, if not the largest law firm, in the world, have shown they do not know much about the state of PR and the blogosphere. The firm severly embarrassed themselves and their client, Infront Sports and Media, in front of 1.75 million daily visitors of Boing Boing. Good chance the embarrassment will spread to millions of others reading via the Internet and the main stream media who pick up the story via Boing Boing.

Baker and McKenzie sent a letter to Boing Boing stating that their client 'anticipates the possibility of unauthorized streaming and downloading of FIFA World Cup matches.' The letter goes on to warn that the law firm will be 'actively monitoring your website … to identify unlawful activity and will, if necessary, take appropriate action to ensure the protection of Infront's rights of those licenses.'

Mark of Boing Boing's response to the nastygram.

Oh brother. I don't even know what the FIFA World Cup is. I'm guessing it's soccer, which I hate just as much as any other pro sport. Every editor at Boing Boing detests professional sports, and we would sooner stream a video of a crumpled up paper napkin in the corner of a room than show some jackasses running after a ball. The only time we would ever post anything about pro-sports would be to make fun of them.

Baker & McKenzie, be on alert: henceforth, Boing Boing will be actively monitoring your website to identify dumbass activity and will, if necessary, take appropriate action to point out instances of wasting clients' money by sending out unnecessary and obnoxious warning letters.

I've had my head taken off by a Chief Marketing Officer at a large law firm telling me they have no need for blogs nor to find out what they were about (mind you I was invited to the firm). Large law firms need to wake up and fast.

Actions like Baker and McKenzie's and copies of letters like this one can get spread across the world like wild fire. And it ain't only to go show up on the Internet which is bad enough. I'll be surprised if this one does not end up in The Times, the UK's daily national newspaper.

If I am a CEO or in-house counsel of a large corporation looking for a law firm I can trust with my company's affairs, I'd be looking for a firm nore cognisciant of how PR works today.

Update: Blog Herald says '…first pre-emptive cease & desist letter I think I’ve ever seen. Idiot lawyers.'

  • You know, it's quite interesting how people are being so quick to slate Baker & McKenzie for this letter. I've no idea whether this is the case, but couldn't there be another side to the story? Think about it. Their client is obviously keen to protect its exclusive marketing rights in association with the World Cup. B&M may be fielding some criticism, but how many people in the world have come to read the B&M letter and, therefore, are now well aware of its client's position? Now, personally, it's not an approach I'd suggest, but could this have been planned? Has the blogosphere been used to meet a client's commercial ends?

  • That was pointed out by Rob Hyndman and it may be that B&M may not be as stupid as first thought.
    I kept wondering how a firm with over 3000 lawyers claiming to be ahead of the game on all fronts could pull such a gaffe. It may be that it was just the opposite. And at this point, B&M does not need to say anything.

  • Michael Geist covered this issue/story about a month ago: http://michaelgeist.ca/component/option,com_content/task,view/id,1247/Itemid,85/

  • I have also reflected on this and I take the point there could benefit for B & M in getting the blogosphere to communicate the message.
    In other words as Observer says “Has the blogosphere been used to meet a client's commercial ends?”
    Frankly it is one thing for a law firm to even have blogging on their radar(In the UK there are less than 20 law blogs) ….to be using the blogosphere in such a sophisticated way would be a remarkable leap. I would take off my hat off to B & M if this was part of an elaborate plan.
    Kevin, how would you feel if one of your client law firms wrote such a letter?

  • “I'll be surprised if this one does not end up in The Times, the UK's daily national newspaper.”
    Too late:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,200-2177760,00.html

  • You know what's stupid?
    Saying “B & M” as if it was one person. No, as if it were 3,000 partners. No, as if “they” have a single, unified course of action, body of knowledge, etc.
    One lawyer drafted that letter. One lawyer presumably has responsibility for the decision to send it.
    I have seen a fair number of preemptive (“proactive”?) C&D letters. And I don't even do that kind of work. This wasn't a shut-down threat, it was a heads-up letter. It was still a bad idea, poorly executed, but it wasn't against the trend in the industry.
    Dumb is saying things like “Baker is behind the curve” or otherwise accusing a big firm of – well, anything – based on the actions of a single lawyer. Or a single group. Or heck, even a single office of a mere 500 of them. You can characterize the office, you can characterize the lawyer, but unless it's reasonable to impute it to the whole, you're just being prejudiced.
    Which can be fun, I'm sure.
    Now, a clever marketing professional would have quickly jumped on this as a way to get the firm's name associated with adept and adroit handling of a bungle. A rapid-response e-mail, plus follow-up, could have followed thie minor insult with a major PR coup.
    Baker & McK: they won't be fooled again. B&M: We know the difference between a blog and a pirate website. B&M: Okay, you got us, we made one mistake, but we're “the world's leading law firm.”

  • “global” law firm. Oh well.