FindLaw BlogsWest Publishing, founded in 1872 in St. Paul, Minnesota by John West, has been one of, if not the, most prominent legal publishers in the United States for over a century.

West established itself as the nationwide de facto standard used by all federal courts and most state courts for the reporting of legal decisions. The company published countless legal treatises authored by the leading legal scholars of our time. Black’s Law Dictionary published by West and the first law book I bought in law school, had a place in every courtroom and law office the entire time I practiced law.

But boy has West Publishing, now part of Thomson Reuters, fallen. West, under the FindLaw brand, is now publishing spam law blogs full of little more than mindless crap, all in the name of selling Internet marketing services to unknowing lawyers. Shameless.

West’s slide has come with the roll up of West into what’s now known as the global legal division of Toronto based Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters (then known as Thomson) purchased West in 1996 and consolidated West and a number of other law book companies into what became know as Thomson West. In 2001, Thomson West acquired FindLaw.com, a free legal information web portal, founded by Stacy Stern and Tim Stanley. Thomson Reuters – West – FindLaw, however they may be now branded, make up this global legal division of Thomson Reuters.

As way of background, spam blogs are blog sites with inauthentic text or or text merely stolen or paraphrased (blog scraping) from other websites. The purpose of such a blog is to get high google search results in order to sell ads on the spam blog or to link to other websites in an attempt to improve the search engine performance of the site being linked to so you may sell ads or services on this second site.

Spam blogs are the rage among two bit scheme artists out hustling a buck. Unfortunately West, under the FindLaw brand, has become one these two bit scheme artists.

Let’s look at one of FindLaw’s new law blogs, The New York Personal Injury Law Blog, and in particular a blog post about a fatal auto crash reported by WCBS News in New York. The blog post is authored by a Emily Grube, a writing specialist, not a lawyer. Grube also authors other spam blogs for FindLaw.

In this blog post FindLaw regurgitates the facts of a local accident, including listing the names of four people killed in the accident. The post goes on to strategically link keywords related to the law, injury, lawyer, and New York to web pages in the FindLaw Internet directory in which lawyers buy listings and ads.

Grube then has the gall to write if you’ve suffered a personal injury you can contact a New York personal injury lawyer, of course linking the text ‘personal injury lawyer’ to FindLaw’s directory. The post does not allow for comments, nor is there any attempt at creativity or analysis.

Imagine scraping the names of four of someone’s loved ones killed in an accident from a news website story for a blog post so you can use the term ‘wrongful death.’ Your goal being to link the term ‘wrongful death’ to a FindLaw website page where people may search for injury lawyers who pay to pay to be in the FindLaw directory. Ambulance chasing at its worst. But FindLaw did it.

Imagine scraping the names of four of someone’s loved ones killed in an accident from a news website story for a blog post so you can say ‘can still sue that man’s estate.’ Your goal being to link the phrase ‘can still sue that man’s estate’ (also done in the subject post) to a FindLaw website page where people may search for probate lawyers who pay to be in the FindLaw directory. Disgusting. But FindLaw did it.

There’s even more garbage in this FindLaw spam blog. Look in the about section in the right hand column where out of 97 words 37 words are keywords related to New York and injury law. It takes a real ‘writing specialist’ to write crap like this:

The New York Personal Injury Law Blog covers news and developments in the area of personal injury and tort law in New York state, and New York City specifically, and helps to connect people with New York injury lawyers. The New York Personal Injury Law Blog is intended to serve as a resource for people working through a personal injury issue in New York, or those who are interested in New York personal injury and tort law generally, including New York personal injury attorneys who wish to keep up with the latest news developments.

I’m not alone in my criticism of FindLaw. Leading New York Attorney Eric Turkewitz labels the blog publishers on spam blogs, and in this case FindLaw’s blogs, as dreck-bloggers. (dreck defined as “excrement; dung”)

[They] aren’t interested in creating good content, they simply regurgitate local accident or arrest stories and place a call-to-action link at the bottom. Posts are filled with buzzwords to game Google that, if coupled with the call-to-action for a recent event, places them firmly in the camp of Solicitation 2.0, a subject I dealt with two years ago. Put bluntly, many of these dung-blogs are electronically soliciting clients. E-chasing, for lack of a better word.

Widely respected blogger and New York Attorney, Scott Greenfield, commenting on FindLaw’s blogs:

These aren’t blogs, of course, in the sense that we understand them. There are mere names designed to trade in on search engine keywords, and capitalize on FindLaw’s SEO ability to get their scam blogs higher than yours on the search engine’s first page.

San Diego Attorney Marc Randazza asked ‘FindLaw, are you really that douchetastic?’

They hired a milquetoast writer to author a milquetoast blawg for the sole purpose of selling ad space to sh*tty lawyers who can’t develop a reputation on their own.

FindLaw’s conduct is beneath everything we have the right to expect from companies serving the legal profession. Rather than conduct itself in a way that improves the image of lawyers and upholds the dignity of our profession, FindLaw gets down in the gutter so it can sell marketing services to lawyers who have not a clue what FindLaw is doing to trash our profession. A profession in which West Publishing once played a proud role.

Boy has a first class legal publishing company once held in esteem by lawyers, judges, and law schools fallen. All in the name of greed.

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 the story.

Also yesterday, Eric Turkewitz linked to a year old blog post of mine in a blog post on Turkewitz’ blog. The text in the link to my post read ‘ratings system is toast.’ In his blog post, Turkewitz also referenced and linked to 16 other sources other than my blog post.

Glancing at my webstats from today I noticed that in the last 24 hours 58 unique visitors visited my blog from Turkewitz’ link to my blog. During the same time, 3 unique visitors visited my blog as a result of the link to my blog in the ABA Journal Top 100 Law Blogs feature story. 20 times the traffic from Turk as the ABA Journal.

I’m always preaching engagement over vanity when it comes to law blog success. Engagement meaning listening to relevant conversation online and when appropriate offering value to the conversation through a blog post of your own. Vanity meaning press releases announcing your blog, top blog contests, blog directory listings, and the like.

Vanity marketing is old school. ‘Marketing is a conversation’ is new school. Today being part of a conversation in which your target audience and their influencers is taking part in or following is more important in drawing attention to yourself, establishing a word of mouth reputation, and getting peer reviews and references than the attention we have bought in the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what Ed Adams, the Editor of the ABA Journal, and his reporters and editors are doing to shine a light on lawyers who are giving of themselves through blogging. I further appreciate that the ABA Journal is differentiating good law blogs from the law blogs being published by lawyers who think they are blogging while merely scrapping news stories for SEO. The latter is crap and demeaning to the profession.

I’m honored to be included among the better blogs by the ABA Journal. I hope it reflects my effort to help lawyers improve their practice and station in life.

At the same time, it’s a privilege to have gotten to know Eric Turkewitz, as a person and as a blogger. I met him through blogging years ago. Either he or I must have referenced what the other had written in a blog post, we started to follow each others’ blogs, and have referenced each other in blog posts on multiple occasions over the years.

I asked Eric to join a New York City panel on blogging I was moderating a couple years ago and we had dinner afterwards. Found out his roots in the Internet, like mine, go back to AOL days, that he’s also a distance runner.

Eric’s a good lawyer and a widely respected blogger (also in the ABA Journal top 100). When he references something I’ve written on my blog, it’s akin to a tacit endorsement of me, or at least my opinion, from a well respected lawyer and blogger. That carries a fair amount of influence with not only New York lawyers, but lawyers around the country as well as reporters and bloggers covering our legal industry.

This ‘endorsement,’ if you will, further enhances my reputation and generates a word of mouth reputation. And if you’re worried about traffic to your blog, it does that too. All the result of joining the conversation. By engaging others.

So when chasing blog accolades (some good, some worthless), give some thought to whether you’d be the greater winner by getting out and engaging folks through your blogging.

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. Martindale’s marketing company in a ‘heart felt’ apology left in a comment to Turkewitz’ post acknowledged they had done the spamming. Martindale remains silent.

Spamming blogs is done by shady marketing and SEO companies by leaving gibberish comments on blogs along with the name and url address of a company in the accompanying fields. It’s done to garner links to a target site (martindale-hubbell.co.uk in this case) in order to improve the target sites search engine performance.

How low does this type of marketing go? Per Turkewitz:

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.

It’s bad enough that Martindale, once viewed by me as a top shelf company, is pulling this crap. But I agree with Turkewitz that lawyers buying Martindale’s service are partly to blame for outsourcing their marketing to companies who use such tactics.

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.

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.

Turkewitz is spot on in asking lawyers and law firms who use Martindale-Hubbell:

  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?

I’m afraid many lawyers don’t give a darn. They’ll pay whatever to get the next client, no matter how shady the means and no matter that it pulls our profession down into the gutter.

But I’d hope that some you as upstanding members of our profession who care about the legal profession and its reputation would examine what you’re buying when it comes to Internet marketing and who you are buying it from.

What do they do to earn your money? Do they also believe in our legal profession and for the good things it stands for. If not, I’d hope you’d spend your money elsewhere.

New York City injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz, who is not only a first rate plaintiff’s trial lawyer, but also a heck of a fine person, is the latest lawyer to question the value of Twitter.

Eric doesn’t say he’ll never use Twitter, but questions Twitter’s value to him and by picking out a few tweets from LexTweet in effect dismisses the value of following lawyers tweeting about other than the law.

I tried to post a comment on Eric’s blog but Blogger kicked back an error message. Perhaps my comment was too long. In any case Eric, here’s the comment I wanted leave.

I continue to be perplexed why lawyers need to write about Twitter in a negative fashion at the same they acknowledge they do not understand Twitter and do not use Twitter. (Could be they know it gets an amusing rise out me.) At the risk of being rude, it’s like Mark Twain said ‘It’s better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.’

You’re missing the point of Twitter Eric. I have discovered more about people I wanted to get to know through Twitter than through any other medium. I have learned more monitoring people on twitter than I have through my feeds (600 plus of them), and our business has increased through my use of Twitter. All three of which long before there was LexTweet.

As to LexTweet, no one expected it to be legal professionals tweeting about the law. I would guess less than 5 or 10% of the tweets from legal professionals relate to the law. I expect no one to sit there and follow tweet after tweet as you’re implying they do by dismissing the power of LexTweet.

LexTweet is a discovery tool for finding people you may wish to follow. As we add groups to LexTweet, I’m hopeful it will be a good way for legal professionals to get to know each other better and exchange ideas as they do relate to the law or personal items.

I also expect the public’s perception of lawyers will be improved by following lawyers on Twitter and getting to a little about them. As one law firm Marketing Director told me, ‘Twitter is a way for clients and the public to find out what her firm’s lawyers are interested in.’ She believes relationships will be built and flourish via Twitter and that those relationships will lead to work.

Small talk leads to big things Eric. I tweeted about being at a Cubs game. A client immediately responded, which lead to the client calling me 3 or 4 days later wanting my company, LexBlog, to do more blogs for his law firm. I tweeted about whether Tiger Woods was going to make the putt on the 18th during the US Open. A client responded that he didn’t think Woods would make the putt. The next day, the client called about a large project he wanted my company to do for his firm. Coincidences? I don’t think so.

I hardly imagine you require all business associates and people you talk with socially to talk about the law. Talking with folks is a way to get to know them and vice versa. That’s a good thing.

I asked a young business lawyer in Milwaukee how he was getting new clients. He told me he had gotten 5 good clients in the last 6 weeks via Twitter.

Don’t try using Twitter on its web interface. It’s confusing as all get out. Use an application like Tweetdeck to make sense of Twitter. You’ll probably find that by doing so using Twitter takes little time, that’ll you’ll discover info and people helpful to your practice, and being as bright as you are, probably learn to use Twitter as an effective client development tool to supplement your blog and other networking.

Guy Kawasaki has labeled Twitter the single biggest branding tool since the television. He’d rather go without his cell phone for a week than Twitter. I’m with him.

I’m a very busy person with a business to run and things to get done. I’m just as busy as when I practiced law as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer. I use Twitter not to waste time, but as a way to enhance my life and grow my business.

I’d welcome your participation on Twitter Eric, if not for your own reasons (though I think you’ll find many positive ones), but so that those using Twitter continue to dialogue with you as much. Some of the exchange you’ve felt on the blogosphere has moved to Twitter. In addition, you’ll catch on to Twitter and, based on the quality of your blogging and the quality of person you are, you’ll use Twitter in a way that will be a positive example for plaintiff’s trial lawyers.

You asked ‘Will Twitter help me acquire yet more information that I can’t get to, or assist me in sharing information that I might have?’ Yes, no question about it.

I’m in New York City next week. Give me 20 minutes to show you how I use Twitter. That’s an offer I wouldn’t make to someone I didn’t like as much as you or to someone who doesn’t have the track record of sharing that you do.

Do I expect you to ‘get it’ right then Eric? No, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t pique your interest enough to give Twitter a try.

New York City Bar Law Blog ProgramThanks to all the folks at the New York City Bar Association (NYCBA) for hosting the blog panel presentation on Tuesday evening. Great job.

Thanks also to blogging Attorneys Scott Greenfield, Dan Clement, and Eric Turkewitz (going right to left, not in order of prominence Greenfield), my co-panelists. Well done guys.

The NYCBA doesn’t screw around. We covered a lot of ground for the 50 plus in attendance. The program went 3 hours strong running from 6 to 9 PM. From what I could tell from the re-runs of the debate, that’s more people than were attending live the Obama – McCain town hall forum that was running opposite of us.

We reviewed the basics of blogs, blog publishing platforms, better blogging practices, RSS and how to use it, the marketing of your blog, and little a social media. Even got into a little debate on topics such as what makes for a successful blog, whether lawyers will keep blogging, and the merits of using a blog for marketing. I suspect Turkewitz and Clement felt a little ‘stuck in the middle’ with Greenfield and I calling BS on the other.

Surprisingly no one in the audience was the user of RSS feeds and a newsreader. Even a couple years ago, I’d get a few RSS users in the crowd. Hope that’s not typical of all New York lawyers, you’re missing out on a powerful way to receive excellent information.

You may download a copy of PowerPoint we used here. As always, feel free to borrow as much or little of it as you like for your own presentation on law blogs. Also feel free to call or email me for additional information you may need or questions you have in preparing for presentations to your law firm or group.

A video recording of the presentation is coming out from the NYCBA. I still get people calling me saying they watched the whole 3 hour video from the program we did in ’06. I’m tempted to say get a life.

For you folks that haven’t seen the NYCBA building, check it out. Sits on 44th between 5th and 6th among old stand alone granite buildings like the Harvard club. Huge rotunda, marble steps, quite a place. We sure don’t have anything like that in Seattle where old is 75 years.

Also note that the Memphis Pork Ribs at Virgil’s Real Barbecue, where we headed afterwards, ain’t too bad either. The Virgil’s Ale was a little light by Seattle Micro-Brew standards.

Looking to bring me into your neighborhood to organize a blog panel presentation? Just holler. I’m easy. I’ll do it for a beer in most cases – even when I have to buy.

Eric Turkewitz, the New York attorney and founder of The Turkewitz Law Firm, is the featured interview subject for today’s LexBlog Q & A.

Aside from his legal work, Eric also runs a blog, the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, and has been a featured speaker at various health an pharmaceutical-related events over the past few years.

See the details of our e-mail interview – in which we chat about how an attorney in America’s most populous city can carve himself a niche in the blogosphere – after the jump.


Continue Reading Eric Turkewitz of New York Personal Injury Law Blog [LexBlog Q & A]