Yodle sucks because, aside from cold-calling NACDL members claiming that organization’s imprimatur (which it does not have), it sells lawyers cookie-cutter websites. And not very good cookie-cutter websites, either:
There are a couple of things, other than their interchangeability, that I found interesting about these Yodle sites.
My fellow federal criminal defense lawyers who have traveled a bit might recognize the building in this photo:
Most of these lawyers are young, so I suspect that Yodle is pitching itself as a less-expensive alternative to FindLaw, which also sucks.
So why does Lafayette criminal defense lawyer Eric Neumann have a photo of the Newark, New Jersey Federal courthouse (and the statue in front of it) on his website? Could he not afford the stock image that Clark Adams (in Columbus) and James Wollrab (in Boulder) and Benjamin Hamlet (in Virginia Beach) and Robert Tunnicliff (in Lewiston / Moscow) sprang for?
Or is the Newark courthouse image an upsell from the Supreme Court image?
Speaking of young lawyers and photos, how about this guy?:
He could stand to cinch up his tie, but otherwise Carlo Key is what a criminal-defense lawyer should look like, right? He has a confident pugnacious look, and gray hair that suggests a wealth of experience.
Except that, well, you see, that’s not Carlo Key:
Much of this Yodle nonsense probably doesn’t harm anyone but the lawyers paying a grand a month for $100 worth of web stuff. It’s ugly, but not unethical. Carlo Key’s ad, if it doesn’t cross the ethical line, comes awfully close. Here’s TDRPC 7.04(g):
In advertisements in the public media, any person who portrays a lawyer whose services or whose firm’s services are being advertised, or who narrates an advertisement as if he or she were such a lawyer, shall be one or more of the lawyers whose services are being advertised.
If I were defending Carlo Key I would say that the person in the image at the top of the page isn’t portraying a lawyer whose services are being advertised, and I’d probably come up with some explanation of who that person is portraying. I know that’s nonsense—Yodle’s intent is for people seeing the ad to think that this is one of the guys who’ll be helping them, and Yodle’s intent is attributable to Carlo Key (outsource your marketing, outsource your ethics)—but it might be enough to ward off a sanction.
But to what end? Assuming that a lawyer takes responsibility for his advertising (he does, under the rules), how could paying a marketing company to do something that’s even close to the line be worth any marginal benefit that could be expected?
Carlo Key himself doesn’t look like a drooling incompetent. Put him in a better suit with a nice tie, and he’d be downright presentable. So why does he have someone else’s picture at the top of his website?
This photographic shell game is not the worst ethical and reputational decision Yodle makes on behalf of its clients (remember: OM = OE). For that, you’ll have to wait till the next post.