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To Pull Or Not To Pull

I received an email a while back from a lawyer who was the subject of a post here. I’d called him out for making accusations against another lawyer in a forum comprised of nearly every DUI lawyer in the state. His wasn’t a terribly friendly email, but that was hardly a surprise. What was a surprise was exactly what upset him.

He was mad that I had written something negative about him on the internet. That was his biggest sticking point. He disagreed with what I wrote, obviously, and he thought I had no business writing about him in the first place. Even more important to him than correcting things he believed I had wrong, however, was making sure I understood what he perceived to be the irony of me calling him out on the internet for calling a colleague out in front of a large group of esteemed lawyers. Tarnishing his internet reputation was the worst thing I could’ve done to him.

At first, I thought I might be able to point out the disconnect. I tried to highlight the difference between him attacking a colleague in front of a big group of people whose opinions actually matter and me writing some random post at a blog read almost entirely by strangers and that he’d never heard of before it mentioned him. That didn’t make sense to him at all. I even explained that, when it comes to a lawyer’s reputation, I think the internet has about as value as a random gas station bathroom, and scribbling something critical on a stall isn’t anything like telling the same thing directly to people who actually matter using a forum where they actually pay attention. The idea was incomprehensible to him, it seemed.

It was fascinating to get a glimpse into a set of values so different from my own. It was very clear that his internet reputation was his real reputation to him. The opinions of other lawyers? Worthless. Except to the extent they’re willing to write online endorsements, I suppose. The internet is what matters. The real world has little to do with making it as a lawyer.

Sadly, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from. More and more lawyers rely solely on the internet for business. Their standing in the community is their Avvo score, not the opinions of their peers. One bad review online does more harm than a hundred quietly dissatisfied clients keeping their thoughts to themselves.

Now, I’m left with an interesting little dilemma. A simple “please take down the post” from him and I probably would’ve pulled the post immediately. What he did was absolutely noteworthy, but I have no ill will toward the guy. It’s apparent that I did something that really bothered him, and given the strange state of the profession, maybe it is a bigger deal to damage someone’s Google juice than it is to smear someone in front of all of their peers. It’s also apparent that he’s never going to think he did anything wrong, and I’m not interested in teaching him any lessons anyway. Plus, it was hardly that interesting a post in the first place.

So is there any benefit to leaving up the post?

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6 Responses to "To Pull Or Not To Pull"

  1. Jeff Gamso says:

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

    The guy thinks it’s OK to call out other lawyers but resents it when you call him out. He’ll trash their reputations among their colleagues – presumably a source of decent referrals – but whines if he’s called out in his marketing niche.

    All of which suggests to me – and there’s considerable ignorance here since I haven’t gone back to try and find your post that set him off, nor have I read your back and forth with him, so caveat lector – that he’s a first-class asshole with an overriding sense of entitlement and a fair amount of hypocrisy in his makeup.

    If all that’s so – and again, serious caveat’s – I’d be inclined to leave it up just ’cause. On the other hand, that kinda reeks of being an asshole back.

    So there’s also this: Is he a kid lawyer who needs to grow up (do what Windy suggests and take out his name) or is he old enough to be a professional jackass (leave it alone, serves him right).

    I sense in myself a certain ambivalence.

    1. Matt Brown says:

      Your assessment seems spot-on based on what I know. And I’d certainly prefer to not be a dick, but I also hate taking things down. He’s new(ish) to private practice but has been practicing a little longer than me. I have plenty of ambivalence too, especially since reasonable minds seem to differ based on the comments. I wrote it, I own it.

      Figure I’ll leave it up until compelling reason to remove it comes up.

  2. Mark Draughn says:

    If the reasons you wrote the original post still apply, then I see no reason to take it down.

    You might want to consider what parts of the post are necessary to fulfill your goals with it. Did you want to call that guy out as a douchebag? Or did you just want to call attention to that kind of behavior? If the latter, you could edit the post to conceal his identity. This would probably meet his marketing needs and still allow you to slag that kind of douchebaggery.

    Keep in mind too that probably the reason you’re hearing from him is not actually because of what you wrote in your post, but because of where your post shows up in a Google search. Googling “[his name] lawyer” or “[his name] DUI” shows your post in the first 5 organic results. With that clickworthy title, it’s not a good thing for him.

    Taking his name out of the post would probably drop its rank in the search results that matter to him, even if you leave enough information in the post (or include a link to his website) so that any interested person could figure out who you’re talking about. On the other hand, people searching for information about him wouldn’t find your post right away, which is probably what he wants.

    What do you want?

    1. Matt Brown says:

      I’m mostly interested in calling out the behavior rather than him personally, so taking out his name is a good idea. Thinking about it now, my biggest hesitations are probably due to a general dislike of changing anything or pulling things down. I feel like the blog and all the posts, good and not as good, should stand as is. Altering anything seems like revising history.

  3. Jamison says:

    Pull it.

    You didn’t link to the blog entry in question and, of course, I haven’t read your correspondence with him. But is it possible that he cares about his reputation in general — his reputation on the Internet AS WELL AS his reputation among lawyers in his community?

    You are pretty dismissive of his concerns: You refer to your “random post at a blog read almost entirely by strangers and that he’d never heard of before it mentioned him.” You note that this “didn’t make sense to him at all.” You also compare a posting on the Internet with graffiti in the bathroom. Is it possible that he just doesn’t agree with you on this?

    Finally, you suggest that, but for his obnoxious way of dealing with you (and his incomprehension of apparently everything), you would simply take down the offending entry. Why does that matter? If there is no other value to the post other than continuing to offend him, why not take it down?

    1. Matt Brown says:

      He probably does care about both, but it was pretty clear his internet reputation was the primary concern. And he definitely disagreed with my thoughts about the values of things written on the internet, but the disagreement seemed to be a result of the fact not caring about internet reputation more than anything else was unthinkable to him.

      I put up the post because I thought there were a lot of worthwhile takeaways from the situation. An indignant response almost makes the points more worthwhile, and the content of it was enough to make me write this post as well. I definitely think there’s value to it, though it’s hardly my best stuff. That’s why I haven’t taken it down already.

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