“On Behalf Of”

FindLaw’s latest marketing gambit: “blogs” for lawyers, using lightly-reworked (as in, “paraphrased so that a particularly stupid high school freshman might turn it in as original work and then be surprised to get an F”) news stories, published “on behalf” of the lawyers paying for the marketing. A few examples (if the link doesn’t work, go to blogsearch.google.com and search for “on behalf of” criminal defense or “on behalf of” personal injury).

Despite my (and others‘) evangelism against FindLaw, one of my fellow Houston criminal-defense lawyers has been suckered in; the blog (nofollow link, of course) is here.

Paraphrased news stories are not original work. Since the bottom of each post has a link to the original, they are arguably not plagiarized, but why go to the trouble of paraphrasing the original if not to deceptively conceal the lack of originality?

Paying for FindLaw to execute words “on behalf of” your desperate need to make a dollar may not be unethical, but it’s ugly, and when you go to a party you can do as much harm to your reputation by having a bowel movement in the foyer as by stealing your host’s silver.

These lawyers get closer to stealing the silver when they pay FindLaw to publish things not on their behalf but as them; even the FindLaw blogs’ first-person “welcome” posts contain boilerplate text.

For example, my colleague’s “Welcome to My Houston, Texas, Criminal Defense Law Blog” post begins, “If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you want an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your constitutional rights”; FindLaw has used the same language (or a near paraphrase) for criminal-defense lawyers in Olympia, Washington; Huntsville, Alabama; White Plains, New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Maryland.

(In the “small world” category, FindLaw used the same “provide you with a clear assessment of your options” language for my Houston colleague as for a friend of mine who defends criminal cases in Kinston, North Carolina.)

My Houston friend’s blog says:

I set up this blog to provide useful information to anyone in and around Houston who has questions or concerns about a criminal matter. I will make regular contributions to the blog, posting articles on a wide range of issues, including . . .

An Atlanta criminal defense lawyer’s FindLaw blog says:

I set up this blog to provide useful information to anyone in the Atlanta area charged with a state or federal crime. I will post articles to the blog on a regular basis, addressing such topics as . . .

A Lake County, Illinois DWI lawyer’s FindLaw blog says:

I set up this blog to provide information to people who have questions about license reinstatement, traffic and DUI offenses in Illinois. I will make regular contributions to this blog, providing articles on a wide range of topics, including . . .

When you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics. You also outsource your reputation. How many times does FindLaw have to screw up before lawyers realize that they do not want to entrust their reputations to that company?

I wonder what FindLaw is promising these folks.

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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3 Responses to “On Behalf Of”

  1. Justin T. says:

    I generally try to put enough profanity and inanity into my blog writing that no one will be tempted to plagiarize it. So far it seems to have worked. Then again, I usually don’t write about anything important or interesting enough to warrant the temptation of plagiarism.

  2. Charles B. "Brad" Frye says:

    Unfortunately, Mark, I wasn’t smart enough to do my own research and start reading your blog before my experience with Findlaw.
    I wonder how these guys will react when (someday) they discover WordPress?

  3. Pingback: And the same old crap begins in Steven Kirkland’s race – Off the Kuff

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