Felony Arrest!

Irksome, Law Practice

That was the title of an email I received an hour ago. OK, I added the exclamation point — the email was titled only "Felony Arrest."

Other criminal defense attorneys — indeed, perhaps most attorneys — know what comes next. Was it from a client, or potential client, alerting me to crisis requiring my assistance? No. No, it was not. It was an unsolicited email from a legal marketeer I had never heard of before — from a fairly well know referral service — who wanted me to "discuss a relationship" in which I would pay for access to his firm's list of potential clients. Here, with certain deliberate omissions and alterations, is how it went:

Ken,

I do not believe that our two firms have met.

I'd like to discuss a relationship regarding the rights to our criminal law matters in the San Diego area.

Take a look at some of our current pre-screened (for financial capability) client matters in that protected territory.

To access our database:

• go to our site, societyforcornholingunsuspectingchildren.com;

• click on attorney log-in;

• your user name is rube2012;

• your password, is sucker2012;

• all lower case

• note that the password and user name are different

• click on the "all" cases line near the top of the home page;

• expires on January 4

Of course, I do ask that you not yet contact any of the clients.

Let me know whether it looks like a potential fit.

Cordially,

Mr. Feculent Q. Pus-Crust
Society For Cornholing Unsuspecting Children
[Los Angeles address and numbers]

My new pal Feculent is right about one thing — our firms have not met. That's because my firm is a law firm, and his firm is lodged, like a partially absorbed suppository, in the legal referral industry.

A few notes:

1. As is common with solicitations form the legal referral industry, the email title is intended to deceive. They do they same thing when they call — they tell the receptionist "I'm calling with a referral of a case" or "I need to talk about a criminal case."

2. My firm does, in fact, do work throughout California. However, most of our work is in the greater Los Angeles area. Our San Diego work is a few percentage points of our practice. Trying to pitch San Diego strongly suggest that dear Feculent is working off of some sort of automated lead generator. [Note: Feculent writes an enraged email back stating that he writes each pitch by hand and does not use any automated lead generator.]

3. Note that the misleading headline and the lack of a prominent opt-out provision puts the email squarely in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

4. I cannot imagine doing business with someone who seeks to initiate a business relationship based on deception. Even if I thought that using a legal referral service is palatable (which I do not) or made business sense (which I do not), I would never in a million years turn to a firm like the S.F.C.U.S., which approached me with a deceitful heart and a dishonest pitch.

5. I didn't use the password to look at their "pre-screened (for financial capability)" client matters. But the mere existence of a list of such things being put on the internet and emailed to potential customers is bizarre. I assume — I hope — that the list doesn't disclose actual names. Even if it does not, what type of criminal case has (a) a client pre-screened for financial ability and (b) such a leisurely pace that it can be summarized on a web site and used for marketing purposes to attract potential lawyers to represent the client, as opposed to, I don't know, immediately connecting the criminal defendant with a lawyer to protect his or her rights?

I feel the way I do when I get body-part-enlargement spam and fortune-in-gold-in-Nigeria pitches: what sort of morons respond to this? Isn't the model, in some ways, inherently self-repudiating? Isn't any lawyer who would respond to such a pitch inherently unsuitable to represent any criminal defendant?

Last 5 posts by Ken White

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @3:57 pm

    I emailed him the link to this post. That's how I roll.

  2. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:31 pm

    Feculent wrote me back a furious and threatening email.

  3. t  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:34 pm

    Expert witness directories do the same thing. Leave you a message or send you an email saying they have a case for you in your area. Which turns into "we know there are clients looking for experts just like you, and they will find you if you advertise with us!"

    Newsflash: Expert witness directories are for suckers. And the suckers are both the experts and the lawyers trying to find experts. Even worse are the "services" which match experts and attorneys and charge exorbitant rates for doing so.

    Google is your friend. Experts, do some things right, and you will be on the first page of your most prized keyword searches, just like me. Attorneys, if you can be bothered to spend about 30 minutes with Google, you can find the right expert without paying a service. (And here's a hint, attorneys… those services use GOOGLE to find their experts and pair them with you.)

  4. t  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:39 pm

    P.S. The "do some things right" does not include paying a charlatan for "SEO services".

  5. n  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:43 pm

    I like that, of all the things you (rightly) call him on, it's the accusation that he uses a mailbot to which he takes umbrage. This man is an ARTIST.

  6. Dan  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:46 pm

    "Feculent wrote me back a furious and threatening email."

    I just snorted with laughter. Someone peeked in to see if I was having a choking fit. Please o please post the email.

  7. FailedNewbieLawyer  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:48 pm

    I for one, vote that you post said furious and threatening email, properly modified to hide Feculent's real information. Though, having seen an almost identical version of this email in my inbox on more than one occasion, i'm pretty sure I know at a minimum which company it is…

  8. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:49 pm

    @n, that's not the only thing he took umbrage with. To summarize:

    1. He spends long hours crafting pitches by hand.

    2. I lied when I said my firm didn't do work in San Diego. (Of course, that's not what I said.)

    3. I lied when I said that his operation didn't have any cases in its San Diego database. (Of course, that's not what I said.

    4. His firm is AWESOME and they are highly regarded and have many happy attorneys and my criticisms are unfair and the FTC thinks what they do is fine.

    5. I am an unprofessional person.

    6. Their LEGAL DEPARTMENT will hear about this.

    Sounds like someone who is not familiar with our familiarity with California's anti-SLAPP statute.

  9. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:50 pm

    @FailedNewbieLawyer: I could do that, but I won't, because the bulk of it is copied-and-pasted printouts of stuff designed to show that my firm does some work in San Diego (duh) or that he and his firm are AWESOME.

  10. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:51 pm

    But let me get a read, here: do any of you think, for a moment, that the "Felony Arrest" title to the email is honest, as opposed to deceptive?

  11. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:55 pm

    Okay, just a taste:

    As to your threat about writing defamatory comments about us on your blog, take note that any defamatory comments or other attempts to interfere with our business on your blog will be studied by our legal department. Given your palpable animus and recklessness as set forth in your missive as well as this warning and demonstration of the false nature of your baseless accusations, we can easily demonstrate malice. If you don't think that they know how to litigate, try us.

    Uh-huh.

    I've invited him to write back and specify any incorrect statements of FACT in my post, as opposed to opinions.

    Apparently their theory would be "someone wrote a mean post about an unnamed marketing company which harmed us, so we're going to sue and draw the anti-SLAPP motion and have our actual name and unsavory solicitation practices widely reported on every legal, marketing, and First Amendment blog on the internet."

  12. Ophelia Benson  •  Jan 4, 2012 @4:55 pm

    No!!! Designed to un-nerve.

  13. eddie  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:04 pm

    I was so hoping this was going to be about David Bell.

  14. David  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:10 pm

    any defamatory comments or other attempts to interfere with our business on your blog will be studied by our legal department

    See? He wants you to school him.

  15. FailedNewbieLawyer  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:10 pm

    My favorite part, by far: "[A]ny defamatory comments or other attempts to interfere with our business on your blog will be studied by our legal department. "

    Studied?! I suppose then, that the only reasonable assumption one could make is that their law department consists of 2Ls at some third-tier toilet law school. Maybe they'll get this fact pattern on their final exam?

    Also, lawls. How exactly does one defame a pseudonymous email message? I mean, it'd be one thing if you posted the guy's real name. But as far as any reasonable person is concerned, all you're defaming in this instance is Mr. Pus-Crust, and I'm sure he's libel-proof.

  16. Jim Hall  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:13 pm

    Interesting.

    I am a consulting engineer. I occasionally get calls from firms who think I should peddle expert witness services through their network. Of course they have no real idea what my qualifications or abilities are.

    I'm sure whenever you need an expert witness, you go right to one of these organizations. I am missing a big payday.

  17. n  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:15 pm

    @Ken I agree the subject line is probably a CAN-SPAM violation. Unless he actually has a database of people who have been arrested on felonies and are sitting around in a cell/interrogation room waiting for him to hook them up with lawyers, in which case he is surely running afoul of your state bar's regulations governing lawyer referral services.

  18. n  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:17 pm

    On second thought, it's surely a CAN-SPAM violation in that case, too.

  19. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:17 pm

    @n, even if he does have a database of people accused of felonies — and his email claims that he does — it wouldn't make the email subject line honest as opposed to deceptive. The subject of the email is not any particular felony arrest, nor even felony arrests in general; the subject of the email is a solicitation to enter into a relationship with his firm.

  20. Ophelia Benson  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:25 pm

    Well maybe it's a hot new bit of patois in his part of town. "Wussup" is out, now the greeting is "Felony Arrest!"

  21. Windypundit  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:34 pm

    From now on, all my email to you will have the subject "Felony Arrest."

  22. Meghan  •  Jan 4, 2012 @5:51 pm

    What in the world does he mean in his first letter, about "protected territory"? It makes it sound like he has franchise rights to these felons and you can't work for them unless you go through him? I'm not any kind of a lawyer, but – do lawyers fall for this sort of thing?

  23. Jeff  •  Jan 4, 2012 @6:02 pm

    I'm fairly certain you're misreading his subject line as it seems rather obvious it's an anagram. Can't decide if he's commenting on your appearance (Snorty Ear Elf) or how ferocious you've become as of late (Snort Feral Ye).

    This is one spammer who loves him some Popehat!

  24. Scott Jacobs  •  Jan 4, 2012 @6:14 pm

    From a layman's perspective, I would certainly consider the e-mail's subject line to be in violation CAN-SPAM.

    What would annoy me more is the inability to opt-out.

    I'd find out how they came upon your e-mail address, and if it turns out that it was given by someone else using their service, I would find that person and beat the unholy monkeyfuck out of them.

    But I am giggling about

    Given your palpable animus and recklessness as set forth in your missive as well as this warning and demonstration of the false nature of your baseless accusations, we can easily demonstrate malice. If you don't think that they know how to litigate, try us.

    God DAMNIT but do I ever want to seem them try to show you how to litigate.

    The end result would be high comedy.

  25. VPJ  •  Jan 4, 2012 @6:45 pm

    Can't decide if he's commenting on … how ferocious you've become as of late (Snort Feral Ye).

    Ooooo…I like it! Nice work.

    @n, that's not the only thing he took umbrage with. To summarize:

    1. He spends long hours crafting pitches by hand.

    and…

    "…Given your palpable animus and recklessness as set forth in your missive as well as this warning and demonstration of the false nature of your baseless accusations…"

    If he spent long seconds, or even minutes, researching his pitch to you, you would have seen the spammers/legal marketing/asshats tags (often on the same post), no? Least, I would think so.

  26. Will  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:11 pm

    Who else read the title of the post and thought David Bell was arrested? I must say I'm a bit dissapointed.

  27. Tam  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:20 pm

    You'd best conduct yourself accordingly.

  28. Douglas Muth  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:44 pm

    Isn't any lawyer who would respond to such a pitch inherently unsuitable to represent any criminal defendant?

    Bets on if Joseph Rakofsky made use of this company?

  29. Scott Jacobs  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:48 pm

    Govern. You meant to say GOVERN.

  30. Dustin  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:50 pm
  31. Dustin  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:51 pm

    Wow, I didn't mean to link my entire comment. Sorry.

  32. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @7:53 pm

    Dustin: Ocean Marketing? Never heard of them.

  33. dougfromnowhere  •  Jan 4, 2012 @8:35 pm

    who in heck uses the phrase "hand crafted" outside of beer making?

  34. Jack B.  •  Jan 4, 2012 @10:18 pm

    They really need to send one of these emails (along with a threatening followup) to Marc Randazza. Doesn't he live in San Diego?

  35. Ken  •  Jan 4, 2012 @11:00 pm

    Randazza is in Vegas. But I'm sure he'd have my back on this if I asked.

  36. Scott Jacobs  •  Jan 5, 2012 @4:48 am

    He'd have your back, and their ass…

  37. John  •  Jan 5, 2012 @5:02 am

    It seems to me that these referal companies now automatically take the hardline and threatening approach whenever they are called out or questioned. A more reasonable response would be "Very sorry, hope we did not offend, but we are legitimate" etc etc "please feel free to call us" but they now all seem to take the slam down approach when responding.

  38. Dustin  •  Jan 5, 2012 @12:19 pm

    "Dustin: Ocean Marketing? Never heard of them."

    LOL. Sorry. Serves me right.

  39. slambie  •  Jan 5, 2012 @4:35 pm

    "lodged, like a partially absorbed suppository…"

    I am so using that in an office conversation at the earliest opportunity. Should be any minute now given the number of asshats wandering about this afternoon.

    Good stuff as always!

  40. Shrimp  •  Jan 6, 2012 @8:17 am

    "It seems to me that these referral companies now automatically take the hardline and threatening approach whenever they are called out or questioned."

    Doubling down on the stoopid seems to be the standard, especially when one has no leg upon which to stand.

  41. GDad  •  Jan 6, 2012 @10:41 am

    Ken,

    I've been so outrage-fatigued about unsolicited commercial phone calls and texts that I totally forgot about CAN-SPAM. Thanks for the pleasant reminder that there is good in the world.

    Oh, and Rachel from Cardholder Services says, "Hi!"

  42. Seerak  •  Jan 6, 2012 @6:40 pm

    Looks like Paul Cristoforo found his next gig.

  43. Ryan  •  Jan 7, 2012 @4:59 am

    @ slambie ""lodged, like a partially absorbed suppository…"

    I am so using that in an office conversation at the earliest opportunity."

    Sure that wouldn't be an orifice conversation?