I’ve avoided doing a post like this for many months, but figured this is the time as one lawyer seems to have stepped over a line from using his blog for commentary or even advertising and gone to outright solicitation of a particular individual.
Kevin O’Keefe first reported on St. Louis attorney Ryan Bradley discussing a local accident and using the name of the injured person in the post heading, in a rather blatant hope that the injured person, family member or friend would Google the accident to see if anything was written about it, find the post, and call him.
Now he has done it a second time in a week, with this post here **
There are, it seems, four types of blogs, though I am using the word “blog” very loosely here since I don’t think it truly applies in either #3 or #4:
1. The pseudonymous blogger. Without a real name and contact information, the blogger writes for pure enjoyment and without any business desire.
2. Blogs that comment on the law and recent events the same way as the pseudonymous blogger, but with a name and contact information. Such a blog might have a beneficial marketing side in making the blogger more prominent in the community and be used as a form of legal networking, though I think most that stick with it do it for the pure enjoyment of writing. This is similar in concept to publishing an article in a legal trade, though it is of course much easier to do and isn’t peer reviewed. This represents most of the legal blogosphere to date.
3. Blogs that are advertising. These blogs discuss some general matter of the lawyer’s practice, or more likely a local accident, and then scream, “call me!” The personal injury sites have many of these, and the “call me!” works to destroy any actual content that might have been posted.
4. Outright solicitation: I don’t know what the Missouri ethics rules are on solicitation, but Ryan Bradley’s blog postings clearly fit into the solicitation category. He puts the name of the injured person in the heading and the body, and looked up the accident report and insurance information to post that online also. Thus, he goes beyond the mere advertising, and into outright solicitation of an individual. Even if he is ethically secure on First Amendment grounds, what he has done certainly appears scummy and is a close cousin to sending a solicitation in the mail to the house. Or picking up the phone and calling. Or sending a person to the house. Or the hospital. You know where I’m gong with this. Solicitation is but one step removed from actual ambulance chasing.
I don’t have the type of site that awards a “worst lawyer of the day,” that is more of an Above the Law type of thing, but if I did, Bradley would surely get it.
The irony in all this is that when folks now Google Ryan Bradley of Missouri in the event they do stumble over his “blog” they will also find out what other lawyers think of his solicitations.
Addendum 12/17/07: Attorney Solicitation 2.0 — Is It Ethical?
** This link is via TinyUrl, which will redirect to the blog posting, but due to the masking created by redirection, will not add any Google pagerank to the blog. More on TinyUrl at Wikipedia.
Links to this post:
great moments in client-chasing
injury law firms in st. louis and seattle run promotional blogs for which they’ve been generating content as follows: a post summarizes (presumably from police or news reports) a recent local road fatality or injury naming the victim …posted by Walter Olson @ December 16, 2007 12:02 AM
Aside from all that, if I was in an accident, I might not want some blogger posting it for all the world to see. It’s not very nice.
# posted by Blogger . : December 13, 2007 10:53 AM
Thanks for joining the discussion on this unfortunate situation Eric.
Interesting that we both held back for a bit before commenting. I was reluctant to call out a lawyer like this even though I viewed what he was doing as wrong and unprofessional. When it comes to large organizations I’ve not had that problem. 😉
But like you, I felt I needed to take a stand and see if by bringing the issue to a head on the blogosphere, we bring a stop to it. We’ll have to see if it works.
If not, like you said when someone searches for Mr. Bradley as a St. Louis accident lawyer, they’ll find a trail of less than favorable posts. Guess that means he’s not using RSS to find out what people are saying about him.
# posted by Blogger Kevin OKeefe : December 13, 2007 1:42 PM
There’s a blue code of silence for cops and a white coat of silence for docs. I’d hate to see something like that for lawyers. When one screws up, all are tarnished to some degree. And there are plenty of screw-ups.
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : December 13, 2007 2:04 PM
These are the fellows that make Walter and Ted look like geniuses. They also taint Kevin’s efforts at legitimate marketing of lawyers through blawgs by dragging it into the gutter.
And so, we prove 2 things: (1) Lawyers can be as scummy as any other profession, but (2) at least some of us won’t protect or defend the ones who embarrass the other 1%.
# posted by Anonymous shg : December 13, 2007 5:56 PM
“I’d hate to see something like that for lawyers.”
Well eric given how infrequently lawyers get sued for legal malpractice rest assured that it already exists.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : December 14, 2007 9:31 AM
Legal malpractice cases are not uncommon, and everyone I know carries professional liability coverage for it.
There is a law blog that is entirely devoted to the subject, which you can find in my blogroll, called New York Attorney Malpractice. It’s coverage, however, extends well beyond New York, and there are usually several stories per day. You can also access it here:
All that being said, legal malpractice cases are quite difficult because you not only have to prove negligence, but also must prove the underlying case to show that it would have made a difference. Thus, you have to prove two cases in one.
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : December 14, 2007 10:21 AM
Too often I follow a link to your blog because of a disagreement the blogger had with your position.
Today I was reminded that although lawyers like your subject exist, you and the vast majority of your profession know them for what they are as well, and don’t condone their behavior.
I’m sorry it didn’t occur to me earlier. Thanks for being out there.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : December 18, 2007 4:27 PM
This really does not look like a blog at all but rather Mr. Bradley’s web site.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : December 18, 2007 9:40 PM
Well, , he calls it a blog and it has dated periodic entries, so it meets part of the definition. It does not, however, allow for comments.
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : December 18, 2007 10:06 PM
Certainly, Eric is familiar with New York Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility
EC 1-7, which states, “A lawyer should avoid bias and condescension toward, and treat with dignity and respect, all parties, witnesses, lawyers, court employees, and other persons involved in the legal process.” Certainly.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : December 21, 2007 8:45 PM
Yes, I do agree with those rules about treating the legal process with dignity. And when I see someone so grossly violate it, I will speak up.
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : December 21, 2007 9:05 PM
So you admit you knowingly violate the rules of New York ethics by posting this editorial/libelous attack?
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : December 22, 2007 4:30 AM
There is nothing that I wrote that violates any NY ethics rule nor anything that is even remotely libelous.
I have pointed out the offending conduct, first identified by another, and noted both in this post and the follow-up post that there are repercussions for people who violate the norms of society.
You can read more about that in the follow-up post here:
Attorney Solicitation 2.0 — Is It Ethical?
Or you can read more about it in Dan Solove’s book that I just reviewed:
Book Review: Dan Solove’s The Future of Reputation On the Internet
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : December 22, 2007 7:20 AM
I challenge you to explain HOW it does not violate EC 1-7.
I have a suspicion the New York Bar Association will think differently, but we will have to wait and see. Really, you seem to be the unethical one here. Re-read your post and the ethics rule posted above.
As for libel, perhaps there will be repercussions for you in “violating the norms of society”.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : December 22, 2007 10:51 AM
There is nothing I can do about someone making a frivolous complaint of the type you have threatened. But the effects of making one can be significant because the blogosphere isn’t kind to that type of conduct. It results in the original malfeasance, Bradley’s use of his blog for apparent solicitation, being repeated over and over as the issue is analyzed.
For more info, see:
The Streisand Effect
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : December 23, 2007 7:43 AM
Advertising is not the reason why most people dislike lawyers. It is elitist attitudes by lawyers like you that cause people to not like us. Your basic belief is that your speech (your blog) is somehow better than Mr. Bradley’s. You obviously have a very high opinion of yourself. Therefore, you draw the conclusion that you should be listened to and Mr. Bradley’s right to speak should be limited.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : September 11, 2008 6:16 PM
Eric – I think you are way out of line here. I wouldn’t go as far as the other poster to say you are violating NY ethical rules – certainly I doubt that is the case. But who made you and Kevin the blogging police? Certainly you are entitled to your opinion, and your opinion may be widely shared. Certainly we have all seen good examples and grotesque examples of lawyer advertising. I don’t think this ranks near as bad as many other things. But regardless, your opinion is your opinion. For you to structure the name of this particular blog entry to optimize its rankings when people search for this lawyer is a pretty gross move by you just to destroy his business. Obviously you are a prolific blogger and your blog is very important. But is Bradley a bad lawyer? Does he just refer his cases out? Does he let them sit without taking any action? Or does he fight courageously for his clients? Who knows – but what if it’s the latter. I just think its way out of line for you to try and destroy his online reputation because you don’t like his blogging style. Perhaps there are many clients who would be lucky to find him as a lawyer.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : March 09, 2009 9:56 PM
For you to structure the name of this particular blog entry to optimize its rankings when people search for this lawyer is a pretty gross move by you…
And yet, this is exactly what Bradley did. I simply held a mirror up.
But is Bradley a bad lawyer?
I have no idea if he is good or bad. I’ve merely commented on his use of the web for solicitation. If you click in the “attorney ethics” category you will see that I’ve probably done 20 posts or so on the subject, exploring the myriad ways that lawyers cross the line from commentary to solicitation, and how difficult it is from a First Amendment perspective to find that line.
# posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : March 09, 2009 10:22 PM
Who can I contact regarding Ryan Bradley’s law blog. I keep up with them and they seem to get more sensationalism by the day. I don’t know whether or not this is considered unethical by the Missouri bar (although I would consider it unethical) but I find the fact that he uses victims of accidents to further his legal practice totally disgusting. I try to imagine if it were my loved one and a lawyer was using their name and the details of their accident to make money, and it just doesn’t seem that he should be able to continue doing this. Who can I write to? Thanks for any help you can offer.
I don’t know whether or not this is considered unethical by the Missouri bar (although I would consider it unethical) but I find the fact that he uses victims of accidents to further his legal practice totally disgusting.
If I had an ethics complaint against a lawyer in another jurisdiction I would look up the address for the Disciplinary Committee. I’d probably start at the web sites for the appellate courts of that particular state, and maybe make a phone call to the clerk’s office.