This time, I checked Simple Justice thoroughly before posting something about an email I got from Total Attorneys yesterday. The company seemed familiar, and sure enough, it turned out that Scott Greenfield wrote about its sketchy lawyer marketing practices in 2009 and then again in 2010, when the Connecticut State Bar officially decided its founder wasn’t quite driving the legal profession into the shitter in a specific manner that would have offended their sensibilities too terribly. Either way, they’re still at it, and I’m posting because what I received serves as a great lesson about how these marketing people work.
Here’s the email I got from an “Alicia Stevenson” in its entirety, which I’ll break down part by part:
I figured an email may be the best bet if you were in a meeting or with a client. My attorney and I need to begin working with a firm to handle the Criminal Defense work that we see out there in Maricopa County.
We work with Shawn Stone in Maricopa County for our Bankruptcy work however they do not practice in the Criminal Defense sector. We had 20 people submit their matter last month and we are looking for an additional local firm to work with at this point.
Shoot me an email or give me a ring at [redacted] if you would be open to working with us.
Offices of Attorney Kevin Chern
25 E. Washington Street
The subject line was “Maricopa Criminal Defense Work,” which looked like spam. When I get a real referral, it’s never anywhere near that generic. I can’t call them out for sleazy marketing for such a sleazy marketing title, though, as the sleaziest of the sleazy these days have mastered the art of hiding their sleaziness. I think they could really trick some lawyers if they classed it up with a title like “Possible Referral” or “Client Needs Help,” though. There’s room for improvement in the title.
Starting off by calling me “Matthew” also wasn’t so effective. The best marketers read my blog or website or use the Google and see I’m Matt and pretty much only Matt. My mother doesn’t even call me Matthew. It’s a minor point, but top quality legal marketing sleaze shouldn’t make amateur mistakes like that. Shame on you, Total Attorneys. I thought you’d bring better game than that.
The next part, luckily, was nothing short of genius. Saying “I figured an email may be the best bet if you were in a meeting or with a client” implies I’m busy. It’s not that they send this crap to hundreds or thousands of people and don’t have time to call, I’m sure. She must know I’m a big deal. Perhaps she knows what it’s like to be busy too? Perhaps she works for a busy firm just like mine? Wow! Excellent, I’ll read on. I appreciated that sentence a lot, so I can’t imagine how large a newbie virtual lawyer’s heart might swell getting an unsolicited email validating their importance and the business they surely deserve to be getting, though they are in reality most likely drinking double lattes and updating their LinkedIn accounts at Starbucks all day long.
The next sentence, “My attorney and I need to begin working with a firm to handle the Criminal Defense work that we see out there in Maricopa County,” continues the brilliance. It establishes that the sender has an attorney. Because the attorney is hers, she must work for a lawyer, and her email isn’t some marketing crap I should promptly delete. Whew, that’s a relief! It’s weird (and spammy and sleazy) how she uses capital letters for Criminal Defense, but that’s the kind of thing you can overlook when someone who is with an attorney contacts you, right?
It only gets better with the next one, “We work with Shawn Stone in Maricopa County for our Bankruptcy work however they do not practice in the Criminal Defense Sector.” The grammar isn’t perfect, but sometimes I don’t understand commas too. I’m also still a little uncomfortable with the practice area caps, but she does herself a hell of a favor with that name drop. Shawn Stone is indeed a lawyer in Arizona, licensed and in good standing. I checked. I always do when I get this stuff. I don’t know why he’s a “they” later on in the sentence, but the name adds some legitimacy to the sleazy email either way. I wonder if he knows he’s attached to marketing materials from Total Attorneys, though. I wonder how he’ll feel about it now that I’ve posted this. Either way, he’s the one she mentions, and I’ll forever associate him with Total Attorneys and nothing else. How a lawyer gets his or her clients is an important part of his or her reputation to me.
She then says, “We had 20 people submit their matter last month and we are looking for an additional local firm to work with at this point.” Am I supposed to be impressed with 20 people? If they were any given 20 of the 50 people who call my firm each month without any real possibility of becoming a suitable client, I’d be more inclined to pay Total Attorneys to keep their awful prospective clients away. I’d pay them more if it kept additional unsuitable ones away, in fact. If they were all like the 5 or so friend, family, and (real) lawyer referrals I get each month, however, that would actually be an enormous number. Somehow, something makes me think that isn’t the case. Also, do they just have one matter? I think there could be a conflict representing 20 people in one matter not knowing anything else, but then I’m not a Total Attorney, I suppose.
She ends with “Shoot me an email or give me a ring at [redacted] if you would be open to working with us,” but as you can probably guess, I didn’t call or email. I wouldn’t have responded even not knowing that she wasn’t just some lawyer’s paralegal writing a weird email, but it was the email signature that made her message notable. Sadly, it was only because of that email signature, which said she was from the “Offices of Attorney Kevin Churn” and linked to “www.totalattorneys.com,” that I knew she was a legal marketer and that hers was just another sleazy marketing email destined for my spam folder.
The last kicker was the “25 E. Washington Street” at the end of the email, which made me wonder if she was trying to represent that her attorney has an office in Phoenix. We do have a Washington Street, after all, as does almost everywhere else. Why leave out the city and state if not to mislead? On top of that, why bring up her actual attorney, Kevin Churn, only in the signature and not in the body? Why stick some poor local lawyer’s name, a guy whose reputation with me is blown, in the body instead? Why not just say “We have a service that will send you clients if you pay” instead? It would be a shorter read, for sure. I guess that’s why I’m a lawyer, not a full time marketer.
The way I see it, lawyer marketing these days is a festering cesspool of sleaze intended to trick lawyers into parting with their money using bulk messages filled with misrepresentations and even misstatements or outright lies. If you are a member of the general public hoping to hire a lawyer, do you want a lawyer who gets business through companies he or she learned about through messages like the one I got from Total Attorneys? If your lawyer gets a sleazy, confusing email and actually chooses to work with the company that sent it, what does that tell you about your lawyer? If you are that lawyer, unless you’re as bad as the company you keep, do you feel bad that the people who pay you found you through a company that can’t even communicate honestly with you, the person who pays them?
More people need to ask themselves these questions.
Filed under: Marketing · Tags: Alicia Stevenson, arizona criminal defense, attorneys, email, internet, kevin churn, lawyers, maricopa county, Marketing, seo, simple justice, sleaze, tempe criminal defense, total attorneys