The Mega-Marketeers: Just As Bad As The Mini-Marketeers, If Not Worse

Law Practice

When I make fun of awful legal marketing on this blog, I often borrow Eric Turkewitz' phrase "outsource your marketing, outsource your reputation and ethics." Because some of the incidents we talk about involve small-scale artisanal asshattery, readers might draw the incorrect conclusion that I'm saying attorneys should go with big, established, "reputable" marketeers to get reliable results. Nope. The most established institutions have some of the worst practices in marketing.

Today I'd like to share with you some truly awful spam from Thomson Reuters, and find out how many of our attorney readers received it as well.

Without further ado, here is the email. At least one attorney in my firm also received it. I'll bet some of my readers did as well.

From: brandon.kahan@thomsonreuters.com [mailto:brandon.kahan@thomsonreuters.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 7:25 AM
Subject: Appointment

Hello Kenneth Paul, [Note, right out of the gate, the cheesy use of my full first name and middle name to address me, a sign of a badly designed mass-mailing program. This screams "spam!"]

Forgive me if I am being presumptuous. [Request denied.] However, I am contacting you based solely on what I can see about your firm. [Note suggestion that author has personally reviewed information about my firm, as opposed to lending his name to a spam email sent to some automatically generated list. I'd like to depose him about how much time he spent researching my firm.] My assumption is that if I can show you a proven low cost method of getting you NEW CLIENTS, not visits to a website, but actually clients you would be at the least interested in hearing about it. [What did diction ever do to you? Also, you have no way of delivering clients that I want. You deliver mostly crazy people and people who want free legal advice.] I work for FindLaw ( a Thomson Reuters company) and our sister company is WestLaw which I’m sure you have heard of[, asshole. [Fixed that for you.]] We are the largest internet marketing company in the country for attorneys and we work with over 16,000 firms. We have over 180 different products ranging from Websites, Blogs, Social Media, Video and Directory Listings all designed to bring in quality clients to our law firms.[I am Unimpressed and Irritated to be Getting this Unwelcome Email.]

We have identified a number of opportunities where we see a high amount of Internet search traffic and relatively poor coverage (I can explain in more detail if we meet). Based on this research, it seems very evident that there is room for a couple of law firms in the Los Angeles metro to exploit this deficit to generate new clients within each of these identified niches. [This means absolutely nothing. Content null.]

In short, we have conducted research and if our findings are leveraged properly, we can make you money. [Again, bear in mind that this amateurish twaddle is coming from a gigantic, established, "reputable" mega-firm in the legal marketing community, and it is aimed at lawyers, but it is written like they are selling aluminum siding.] We have a specific plan in mind that we would like to share with you.

Let me state upfront that we are NOT looking to come in with a sales presentation and try to get you to switch ANY of your current marketing. This would be a targeted inexpensive program that would go side-by-side with anything you are currently doing and could be set in motion right away.

Due to the fact that we can only support a few firms with this offer to ensure efficacy; [An incorrect semicolon is accepted in the marketing industry as a method of apologizing for lying to you. Again: how many other people got this as well? Also: I know I need an editor, and I shouldn't throw the first stone at awful grammar, but why should you trust a mega-marketing firm that doesn't have a proofreader?]I am requesting that you let me know ASAP if you are interested in scheduling a 15 minute conversation to discuss the details.

Thank you,

Brandon Kahan
Client Development Consultant
FindLaw A Thomson Reuters business
Serving Southern California
brandon.kahan@thomsonreuters.com

In brief: megacompany Thomson Reuters sends me subliterate spam asking to meet me to discuss a vaguely pitched marketing program that's hush-hush exclusive.

How many people received this? Let's find out.

Also: what kind of lawyer falls for this? Having seen the way Thomson Reuters spams, would you want to hire, and trust, the sort of lawyer who falls for this?

Last 5 posts by Ken White

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jul 10, 2013 @8:24 am

    Hey, if you run your own mail-server in firm (and you should, IMO. Just as "outsource your marking -> outsource your ethics", "outsource your computers -> outsource your computer security"), you can probably go after them for violating the CAN-SPAM act. Really teach them what spamming a lawyer can do… :)

  2. John Ammon  •  Jul 10, 2013 @8:25 am

    Hey, my dad's name is also Kenneth Paul. Neat.

  3. Dave West  •  Jul 10, 2013 @8:26 am

    I'm lit support at a firm in Chicago, and I got substantially the same message. Different person at Thompson, and it's for Chicago, but yeah, the same thing.

  4. Wondering  •  Jul 10, 2013 @8:27 am

    What did diction ever do to you?

    Nice.

  5. Mike  •  Jul 10, 2013 @9:19 am

    I got the same email, except (1) it came from Travis Hoechlin, (2) Travis found opportunities in both the "Los Angeles and Orange County metros" (as opposed to only LA metro), and (3) Travis sent me the email Tuesday morning, so I'm way ahead of you in snatching up these precious opportunities.

  6. Joe Hone  •  Jul 10, 2013 @9:29 am

    Yep, I received the exact same solicitation, sans the editorial comments of course. But I think Thompson Reuters is starting to feel pressure from some of the alternative services offering legal resources for free or nearly free and this is but one more sign of that

    Traditionally, Westlaw and Lexis/Nexis made most of their money from their respective case search functions. However, since all published cases are in the public domain, small-time entrepreneurs are popping up with that service and it is cutting into revenue. The only vital tools missing from these start-ups are annotated codes and cite checking. I think the two giants are seeing case search clients dropping away. If you use Westlaw in particular, you have noticed that unless you create specific filters, every search pulls up hundreds of "authorities" you don't want, don't need, but cost additional money to view. Bad marketing, but also a sign the bean counters are dictating how the end product is delivered.

    As an example of an effective alternative, if you use case search engines for legal research, give Google Scholar a try – it is 50 times faster than Westlaw, gives you great search control, gives you instant tracking of every case to ever cite your authority, and it is relatively easy in just a few minutes to confirm the validity of your authority by looking at the most recent case cites to it, because Google Scholar can open the citing authority highlighting the quote to the source you are checking so you can quickly see if the current decision is quoting it as good law. Besides, how many times have you used Shepard's or Key Cite, then read the case and discovered it was inaccurately presented as valid/overruled? That happens all the time in my appellate practice, especially when cases are disapproved on grounds that do not invalidate the opinion on other grounds. I start every research project in Google Scholar and often never open Westlaw. In fact, I've only been opening Westlaw for annotated codes.

    It is just a matter of time until Westlaw and Lexis/Nexis are minor players in the legal research field – Thompson Reuters has other revenue streams and will likely stay around, but I'm not so sure about Lexis/Nexis. I had to renew Westlaw last week and was told "there is an automatic ___% increase every year. . . ." I don't remember the amount, but by dropping part of the plan I stayed at the same price. For me, this is but one more reason to drop the plan – but I still need those annotated codes!

  7. Colin  •  Jul 10, 2013 @9:33 am

    I'm in the greater Austin area, and have received a couple of pieces of Thompson-Reuters spam in the last week or so. Couldn't tell you if they were substantially similar, as that would have required opening them before deleting.

  8. Boxers or Case Briefs  •  Jul 10, 2013 @9:39 am

    I'm up in northern CA, didn't get any e-mail along these lines. I guess that not being in the Los Angeles metro means I'm not cool enough for crappy spam :(

  9. Joe Hone  •  Jul 10, 2013 @9:42 am

    I should add that I don't work for Google – I'm just a sole practitioner who is stoked at the changing landscape for legal research.

  10. ZarroTsu  •  Jul 10, 2013 @10:01 am

    I question the professionalism of an individual who uses a semi-colon in place of a comma so flagrantly.

    That and the spam-mail, but I'll forgive that as it at least generated this blog post as a positive. (the only positive unless/until it spirals hilariously out of control as many stupid things are wont to do.)

  11. BPFH  •  Jul 10, 2013 @10:11 am

    Somehow I'm not surprised. (I used to work for Thomson-Reuters–not in the legal division, though.)

    I wonder if their tax and accounting division is doing the same thing to accountants…

  12. JLA Girl  •  Jul 10, 2013 @10:23 am

    Ken, please tell us that you've responded. Because I suspect the NEW CLIENTS have to be some kind of ponies. And we all know how you feel about ponies.

  13. Dan  •  Jul 10, 2013 @10:35 am

    A former peer / newly solo attorney asked me to lunch yesterday to pick my brain for advice. One of the key tidbits I told her was to never ever outsource your marketing or use a self-anointed SEO Expert. I didn't want her to wind up getting an email from Ken about her marketeer's identity.

  14. En Passant  •  Jul 10, 2013 @10:45 am

    Ken wrote

    Hello Kenneth Paul, [Note, right out of the gate, the cheesy use of my full first name and middle name to address me, a sign of a badly designed mass-mailing program. This screams "spam!"]

    Right off your SBC information page, the go-to source for lawyer spammers.

    It's almost a sure bet that they gathered the information by automated means, web crawlers, in violation of even the federal I-CAN-SPAM act.

    I'm retired and inactive, and I've gotten plenty of spam from CLE providers who are accredited by SBC. I've never had any prior relationship with any of these spammers. They're "cold calling" with spam, a clear violation of Cal. B&P Code section 17529 et seq.

    Why SBC accredits spammers is the $64,000 question. Cal B&P code prohibits spamming, and nothing in the I-CAN-SPAM act preemption requires state bars to accredit or otherwise support anybody who violate state statutes.

    Some years ago I called SBC and asked. They were bereft of clue. They barely knew what spam was.

  15. grouch  •  Jul 10, 2013 @10:52 am

    Dear {{Mr |Ms |Sir |Madam |Dr |Right Honorable |Esteemed |Holy |Informed |Sucker }} {{Consumer |Occupant |Craftsperson |Tradesperson |Professional |Bottom-Feeding Scumsucker |Habitual Victim }}:

    Our Prestigious, Venerable and Highly over-marketed Firm has recently been informed of your Supreme Eligibility for reception of this Coveted, Exclusive Offer of consultation and subscription to Our Services. You must ACT FAST and call {{attach toll-free number of the week}} before this Coveted, Exclusive Offer is given to {{competitor |rival |ex-spouse |former employ||ee||er |Institute For Psychotic Guard Pony Training}}! Please have your {{credit card |bank account }} number ready. Operators are Standing By!

    If you choose to remain among the miserable, unwashed peasants not privy to the Coveted, Exclusive Offer, please do us the Honor of calling {{attach toll-free number of the week}} to share with us your reasons so that we may benefit from Your Wisdom and better serve future Offerees while getting a second bite at the apple.

    Sincerely and Exclusively yours,
    Markus R. Us, Esq., Lord of the C.E.O., B.S. Extraordinaire

  16. CompSciJedi  •  Jul 10, 2013 @11:13 am

    Hey! I did freelance work for a company Thomson Reuters outsources blog article writing to, specifically to tie in FindLaw's shoddy, poorly-coded API into the poorly-designed content management system this company was using.

    Now I feel special! …and dirty.

  17. Oomph  •  Jul 10, 2013 @11:53 am

    Sounds like it is about time for the KAHAN-SPAM Act to be brought in.

  18. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 10, 2013 @12:53 pm

    small-scale artisanal asshattery

    Each painstakingly and lovingly handcrafted.

  19. Mel  •  Jul 10, 2013 @1:09 pm

    Is this the same Thomson Reuters that sells looks at their Consumer Confidence Survey two seconds before the world gets to see it (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/wall-street-rips-off-the-sting-20130709)? For the impatient traders?

    How can you not go with such a helpful outfit?

  20. Xenocles  •  Jul 10, 2013 @1:19 pm

    However, I am contacting you based solely on what I can see about your firm.

    Well, maybe all he can see about your firm is that it exists.

  21. Aaron S.  •  Jul 10, 2013 @1:23 pm

    WTF? I didn't get it (unless it got filtered into my Spam folder)! Who can trust a marketer that misses me? /snark

  22. R  •  Jul 10, 2013 @1:30 pm

    Did anybody catch the episode on lawyer advertising from the Life of the Law podcast? Interesting analysis of all the cheesy TV ads that are broadcast in some states.

  23. JS  •  Jul 10, 2013 @6:37 pm

    FYI: 3812 Westlaw cases in search adv: (pony ponies)

  24. jdgalt  •  Jul 10, 2013 @6:45 pm

    I'm in the tax business, and know Thomson-Reuters as a respected source of both tax software and educational materials. I am subscribed to their sales list and have never seen them put out anything close to the piece of spam you quoted from. So I tend to believe that the problem is confined to their FindLaw unit.

    T-R has been expanding by acquiring other companies for years, so it wouldn't surprise me if FindLaw was a fairly recent purchase. Maybe if T-R's top management were to hear lots of complaints such as yours, they'd either do a purge at FindLaw or drop the unit like a hot potato. I think it's worth a try.

  25. BPFH  •  Jul 10, 2013 @7:17 pm

    @jdgalt: I suspect you're right, regarding TR's tax and accounting division, based on my own experience working for them. They were out to screw the workers, not the customers. (I've got all sorts of stories, but this isn't the right forum.)

    As for FindLaw, though, they've been part of TR (and Thomson before them) since before I left, and that was five years ago. Wikipedia says Thomson West bought them out in 2001, which would be consistent.

  26. DonaldB  •  Jul 11, 2013 @3:02 am

    It's obvious that they aren't selling siding. They used the word "leveraged". They are targeting sophisticated business professionals that admire the hip lingo from a decade ago.

    The flawed punctuation is to make the letter feel like a individual note, dashed in a hurry, just to you, by a slightly flawed human that really cares that you get this info ASAP. They didn't want the delay that proofreading would cause. They surely wouldn't; couldn't — mustn't, shouldn't have sent such a shoddy letter out to thousands.

  27. ZarroTsu  •  Jul 11, 2013 @5:24 am

    @DonaldB

    If this were true, why the heck would they email multiple people in the same law firm, whom I assume share the same email address?

    Should really try to thin the targets out enough that no two people in the same corporate email get the message (even though it still carries a lot of key sections that tip it off as either spam or highly ignorant and uncaring).

    Though if they did this feasably outside of corporate emailing, they'd lose 80% of targets if they didn't email to multiple hotmail/gmail/aol(?) accounts of the same "domain". Although I question the authenticity of any person in law who uses these mail domains as a primary contact account.

    Of course this also just assumes this spam is structured specifically for law firms, which doesn't seem likely. Replace a few specific words around the email and it could really target any company at all.

    Quick, everyone replace every word having to do with law firms with a similar word having to do instead with a similar word having to do with, for example, rectal transplants (which they would be far more familiar with).

    I work for FindRectal ( a Thomson Reuters company) and our sister company is WestRectal which I’m sure you have heard of. We are the largest internet marketing company in the country for practitioners and we work with over 16,000 offices. We have over 180 different products ranging from Websites, Blogs, Social Media, Video and Directory Listings all designed to bring in quality clients to our transplant offices.

    Seems legit.

  28. Sean C  •  Jul 11, 2013 @7:29 am

    Act now! Hoof it! Don't wait and jockey for market share, be the first in your area to harness the power of Pony Practice™!

    Should each recipient of the spam respond, and ask to discuss developing pony malpractice business? I suppose you couldn't 'Pony roll' them into thinking there is an untapped market for pony litigation, but the attempt might be entertaining.

    @ZarroTsu – Great idea! Ken's should have been like this:

    I work for FindPony ( a Thomson Reuters company) and our sister company is WestPony which I’m sure you have heard of. We are the largest internet marketing company in the country for pony practitioners and we work with over 16,000 stables. We have over 180 different products ranging from Websites, Blogs, Social Media, Video and Directory Listings all designed to bring in quality clients to our pastures.

  29. Howard  •  Jul 11, 2013 @8:47 am

    Wasn't there a bit in that mumbly-gook that suggested that they wanted a meeting? By all means arrange a meeting! Let them pay to send someone. Does't mean you have to show up. Bonus points for setting up a meeting at a place that is impossible to park or in the middle of a construction snarl.

  30. Alan Bleiweiss  •  Jul 11, 2013 @2:53 pm

    Findlaw – that bastion of elite marketing solutions. You know, the kind that led me to taking on a client who had used their services and as a result, had their law firm web site knocked down to the fifteenth page of Google results.

    Took us three months of heavy lifting on a complete re-write of the entire site to undo just the foundation of that mess. And another six months to clean up the remnants they left out there.

  31. throwaway  •  Jul 11, 2013 @3:56 pm

    Brandon is a Consultant for TR on the very bottom rung of a very long Org Chart. I should probably not say any more than that.

  32. bill  •  Jul 11, 2013 @8:19 pm

    @Alan – I've long wondered if/when there'd ever start being serious malpractice suits for software development but however overdue that is, SEO malpractice is the worst. I can't even imagine getting my search rankings destroyed b/c of some BS like spamming, but I'm guessing the spammers charge quite a bit for the screwing. I don't want anyone misconstruing the next statement as any support for Pony, in any way shape or form, but sometimes I actually hope for Ken to get spammed by legal marketers just so I can enjoy the show. As smart as Clark is, he apparently remains blind to the Pony threat, but man it'd be awesome if we could get him on the bandwagon.

  33. Eric  •  Jul 11, 2013 @9:50 pm

    But what about the ponies? They didn't mention their ponies?

  34. Mike  •  Jul 17, 2013 @10:22 am

    Travis followed up with me! Three times! In the span of 22 minutes. I think he's really excited. All three emails:

    Dear Michael,

    I sent you an email last week but I didn’t hear back from you. I work for FindLaw ( a Thomson Reuters company) and our sister company is WestLaw which I’m sure you have heard of. We are the largest internet marketing company in the country for attorneys and we work with over 16,000 firms. We have over 180 different products ranging from Websites, Blogs, Social Media, Video and Directory Listings all designed to bring in quality clients to our law firms

    We have identified a number of opportunities where we see a high amount of Internet search traffic and relatively poor coverage (I can explain in more detail if we meet). Based on this research, it seems very evident that there is room for a couple of law firms in the Los Angeles and Orange County metros to exploit this deficit to generate new clients within each of these identified niches.

    In short, we have conducted research and if our findings are leveraged properly, we can make you money. We have a specific plan in mind that we would like to share with you.

    Let me state upfront that we are NOT looking to come in with a sales presentation and try to get you to switch ANY of your current marketing. This would be a targeted inexpensive program that would go side-by-side with anything you are currently doing and could be set in motion right away.

    Due to the fact that we can only support a few firms with this offer to ensure efficacy; I am requesting that you let me know ASAP if you are interested in scheduling a 15 minute conversation to discuss the details.

    Thank you,

    Travis Hoechlin
    Client Development Consultant
    FindLaw A Thomson Reuters business
    Serving Southern California
    Office: 714-261-0185

  35. Ken White  •  Jul 23, 2013 @7:38 am

    This person just spammed my firm in a follow-up email.

  36. Kilroy  •  Jul 23, 2013 @7:45 am

    sorry about that. I got an email this morning from Thomas Reuters asking to fill out a survey and get $25 amazon gift card. I figured you wouldn't mind if I named names for free money.

  37. joy  •  Jul 23, 2013 @9:24 am

    I am not a lawyer, although I did briefly once attend law school. But I am a marketer who works on projects like this…

    In this case, CAN-SPAM wouldn't necessarily apply. CAN-SPAM DOES NOT prohibit emailing to addresses where there is no pre-existing relationship. CAN-SPAM does not require an opt-in to email. What it does do, is to prohibit messages when you do not include a mailing address, phone number, a working (within 10 day) Internet based opt-out method or show the communication is advertising.

    Let me tell you now, there is a whole entire industry devoted to selling contact information (mostly B2B). There are data brokers out there who provide lists based on geography, SIC/NAICS codes, however I want that data. For example, if you know about the CRM company Salesforce.com, they bought data provider Jigsaw a few years back and now that division is known as data.com. As a marketer using Salesforce, all it takes is literally a few clicks for me to pick contact info, write an email and send it.

    However, since you all are attorneys, I'd bet you're probably using another Thompson Reuters service/product and your contact information is governed under those agreements in this particular case. This is something called a "pre-existing relationship."

    In my experience, if you ever want to squeeze an email marketer, it's not CAN-SPAM you use — unless the email is really egregious, but you go after their ISP/Email Service Provider (i.e. MailChimp, Constant Contact to name a few). Most ISP/ESPs have anti-spam clauses – some require an opt-in (i.e. that where that "pre-existing relationship" comes into play), others might require a double opt in. A lot of the time, a well worded complaint to the primary ISP/ESP's abuse desk does the trick. The reason for this is that these ISP/ESPs don't want to get harassed by their upstream ISP provider and/or have their email servers blacklisted by other providers or third parties.

    However, I've seen instances where email complaints have gone to the primary ISP/ESP, to the advertised Web site's hosting provider (many of these guys also have anti-spam clauses) and to the upstream ISP provider.

    Questions?