Late yesterday I saw a new email in my inbox. The subject line caught my eye:
Son under indictment
A new case? One never knows. I opened it.
I found not a new client, but an old friend: one Steve Kramer of LegalMatch, a "service" that purports to help match clients to lawyers. I've written before about emails from Steve Kramer and LegalMatch in unflattering terms. For reasons I cannot recall I previously did not name them; I referred to them with thematic accuracy as Feculent Q. Pus-Crust of the Society for Cornholing Unsuspecting Children. I'm naming them now.
Feculent — pardon me, Steve — has continued to spam me even after threatening me with litigation for criticizing him and even after I reminded him that he was spamming someone he had previously threatened.
Here are some of the email subject lines Steve Kramer has sent over the last two years:
Son under indictment (3/11/15)
My son has been charged with statutory rape (11/25/14)
intent to distribute (11/13/12)
felony arrest (1/4/12)
No, Steve Kramer's son is not — so far as I know — a one-man crime wave. Rather, Steve Kramer and LegalMatch use deceitful clickbait email subjects to get lawyers to look at their spam. As his latest says:
Let me know whether the following snap shot of some of our recent financially capable LA area criminal defense clients looks like a fit.
For Legal Match
It's nice that Steve Kramer is so forgiving that he's still first-naming me after I've sassed him and written mean posts about him.
Emails from Steve-O and Legal Match contain a sort of list of client inquiries that consumers have apparently left on LegalMatch.
EX FELON WITH POSSESSION OF FIREARM
BELL, CA 02/16/2015 C154733487378
FREE MY SON
AUGUST F. HAW, CA 02/16/2015 ✔ C154721465270
VIOLATION OF PROVATION
SAN FERNANDO, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154646769498
LEAVING THE SCENE OF A ACCIDENT
LYNWOOD, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154643116086
2SUSPECTS TRAFFICKING 48LBS OF DRUGS
LOS ANGELES, CA 02/14/2015 ✔ C154536359337
Steve and LegalMatch represent in their solicitation that somehow they have determined that these people are "financially capable" — meaning, I guess, that they can afford to hire a lawyer. In any litigation I look forward to discovering what methodology they used to evaluate the assets of the "violation of provation" guy. They also represent that these are "criminal defense clients." Yet the emailed lists includes entries like this:
FREON EXPOSURE WORKING AT GENERAL DYNAMICS 80'S.
WALNUT, CA 02/09/2015 C154071310246
Perhaps this person has been criminally charged with exposing himself or herself to freon at General Dynamics in the 1980s. I presume they will explore a statute of limitations defense.
LegalMatch views its system — where people describe their cases, to be reviewed by potential lawyers — as a service to the lawyer-seeking community. Whether it is also a boon to the law enforcement community remains to be seen. It encourages customers to leave entries like this one in the most recent solicitation email:
ACCUSED OF MURDER OCCURRED IN SELF-DEFENSE ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, CA 02/10/2015 ✔ C154102776952
Who read that? Well, apparently, any LegalMatch lawyer with access to that client database, and any prospective LegalMatch lawyer to whom Steve Kramer sent the email. All of those people now know that there is a person accused of murder in or near Rolling Hills Estates, California, in February of 2015, who says they did kill the person but did so in self-defense. Did they get legal advice before making that disclosure? Did they think that the disclosure would be kept confidential? Did they know it would be sent out in spam emails? Would a court treat such an entry as privileged, despite how recklessly it is being bandied about? Is LegalMatch certain that it didn't sent this information to anyone with connections to the victim, or the victim's family's lawyers, or the prosecutors, or the investigating officers, or the media? Do you think that — assuming this is a real case — the media would be interested in hearing that the accused was admitting to having killed the victim but was asserting self-defense?
Of course, if that entry is entirely fabricated, I suppose it's not so much an amoral and reckless disclosure by LegalMatch as it is false advertising.
I've written to Steve Kramer, LegalMatch's press office, and their general counsel asking some questions.1 Among them is this question — does LegalMatch think that it is not bound by the CAN-SPAM Act, which (as LegalMatch's blog will tell you) prohibits misleading subject lines and requires clear opt-out-of-this-spam systems?
LegalMatch is not the only turd in the beclouded punchbowl of the legal marketing community. But, despite vigorous competition, it is one of the oldest, most noisome, and most persistent turds. Steve Kramer has been pestering the unwilling about LegalMatch for years, and LegalMatch has been using sleazy tactics (and promising to improve them) for a decade.
Yet LegalMatch continues to thrive. That means some lawyers out there are paying them. Those lawyers are equally responsible for perpetuating these practices. And the clients — oh, the clients. Citizens, know this: if you hire someone through LegalMatch, you're hiring someone desperate or stupid or cynical enough to accept this bad behavior.
Back in 2012 I told Steve Kramer "Remove me from your spam list forthwith." Perhaps this post will help get results.
- Dear LegalMatch,
It has been two years since Steve Kramer, the author of the solicitation below, threatened me with a lawsuit for criticizing his and LegalMatch’s sleazy marketing techniques. I’ve repeatedly asked Mr. Kramer to cease spamming me and my firm. I’ve reminded him that, since he threatened to sue me for writing about LegalMatch, perhaps he might want to take me off of his spam list. Yet he persists, as you can see from the email below.
I have some questions.
First, does LegalMatch support, and stand behind, this marketing method? Does LegalMatch approve of sending emails with misleading clickbait titles like “Son under indictment” to lawyers?
Second, how does LegalMatch determine that potential clients are “legally capable,” as asserted in this advertising solicitation? For instance, if in the course of discovery in litigation I were to seek discovery of the financial circumstances of the person below seeking help with “violation of provation,” how would I find that LegalMatch had assessed their ability to pay?
Third, by what means does LegalMatch determine that potential clients are “LA area criminal defense clients,” as represented in the solicitation below? For instance, does the “Motorcycle Stolen from my garage” matter below have a hidden criminal defense angle? How about “Freon exposure working at General Dynamics ‘80s?” If that person unlawfully exposed themselves to freon in the 1980s I would have thought that the statute of limitations would have expired by now.
Fourth, what is LegalMatch’s theory regarding why it is not required to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act? The email does not have a clear method to opt out of further unsolicited commercial emails. Also, is it your position that the email – and the pattern of ones like it – complies with the CAN-SPAM prohibition on misleading emails?
Please advise. The last time I wrote about Mr. Kramer’s emails I did not name him or the company. That was an error. I will be naming this time and reprinting the emails I have received over the last two years.
Ken White ▲
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017