As I’ve mentioned previously in this column, it’s tough starting out as a new lawyer – particularly in today’s economic climate. Many lawyers have been forced into small firms or into hanging their own shingle. While many people seek out these avenues of practice, many are forced into them. Either way, it’s difficult to do so straight out of law school. On top of that, most new lawyers have mounds of non-dischargable student loan debt, are unprepared for actual practice (thanks law school!), and are potentially going up against lawyers with much more experience.
Most new lawyers who want to find success in these times devote themselves to working hard, building relationships, and developing a reputation for honesty and integrity. But if you’re determined to shoot yourself in the foot, repeatedly, then I offer The 12 Steps To Ruining Your Reputation….
To give the 12 Steps some context, we first have to look at their inverse inspiration, The 12 Rules Of Client Service. The 12 Rules of Client Service, written by Dan Hull, offer a guideline for providing excellent service to clients. I found them to be so enjoyable and damnably accurate, I asked Hull for permission to include them in my book (affiliate link). Mr. Hull, being a generous and gracious man, agreed.
Unfortunately, people have taken Hull’s Rules without his permission and claimed them as their own. The most recent culprit is Dallas/Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer Carl David Ceder. At some point in the past year, Ceder lifted the 12 Rules and displayed them on his own blog, under his name and picture, without link or attribution. This is called stealing. And so begins the 12 Steps To Ruining Your Reputation.
Rule #1: Steal Other People’s Work.
As was pointed out by Scott Greenfield over at Simple Justice: Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. Greenfield attempted to contact Ceder but never heard from him. As such, Greenfield wrote a post last December pointing out Ceder’s theft of Hull’s words.
Rule #2: Display Extreme ButtHurt.
After some weeks went by, Ceder became aware of Greenfield’s post. Suddenly aware that his theft had been put on display for the world to see, Ceder immediately took to the comments and produced an epic-length comment, all on his iPhone:
I just found this and take major offense. I will respond more later. Your response is not only juvenile, but completely out of line. You don’t even know about me, or my practice. My paralegal found this, and to be honest, I did not think any of the content was worthwhile, except for the Rule of inundating clients with correspondence. I don’t know how you Yankees practice here up North, but I spend my time actually practicing law IN THE COURTROOM. It seems you practice mostly white collar law. My advice is stick to that and keep yourself as the self-proclaimed monitor of content on the Internet.
Rule #3: Display Popped-Collar Douchebro Bluster.*
Then again, maybe things are done different with Yankees from up North. Here in Texas, we don’t hide behind computers. If you want to meet in person to discuss this in person, I’d be happy to oblige. But I can assure you that you won’t like the results.
Rule #4: Lie About Your Experience.
I’ve spent 7 years as am attorney, and the last 13 years of my career building that to what it now is.
Yet, as was pointed out by actually-experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett in a comment:
January 2014 – May 2008 = 5 years 8 months. You’re hoping nobody will read your comment for 16 months?
Rule #5: Issue Threats of Violence.
From Ceder’s comment, directed towards Greenfield:
If you want to step outside and speak out this in person, again, wherever you want, I’d be happy to oblige…
Again, if you want to meet, be sure to bring a first aid kit. In Texas some of us settle things the old fashion way. Similar to in a courtroom, but in a slightly different fashion I’m sure you can surmise…
And one last suggestion, if we ever meet in person, I wouldn’t only bring a first-aid kit, I’d bring other people other than yourself.
Rule #6: Make Veiled Racist Comments.
From another comment by Ceder at Simple Justice:
. . . The main problem for lies with Mr. Greenman or Greenfeld or whatever his name is. . . . My frustration lies with Mr Greenbaum, or whatever he goes by. . .
Rule #7: Post
Veiled Racist Comments Video.
Rule #8: Not Understand Basic Principles of Ownership.
Again, I am just at a loss as to why this is such a big deal. And just an FYI – as I looked at the page where the content used to be, there was not any place on there, ANYWHERE, where I tried to pawn the content off as my own, or that they were exclusive “Ceder Law Firm” rules…
I can honestly say I did not try to steal your content. If I did it would be in another section of my site.
Rule #9: Write So Poorly That It’s Difficult To Distinguish From a Bot.
Rule #10: Ruin Your SEO.
As pointed out by PeacockEsq on FindLaw:
Search for Ceder’s full name on Google. Thanks to the reputation of plagiarism-free sites like Simple Justice and Popehat, and the original, fresh content in the posts and comments, as of now, Greenfield’s post is the first result. Popehat is on the first page as well. Mixed in are results for Ceder’s firm and Yelp page.
Rule #11: Threaten To Sue.
From one of Ceder’s recent emails:
As of now, and this is true, I plan to sue the owner of the blog who has disparaged, and impugned, my character and intellect, in such a way…
I do intend to try and get to the bottom of this – because this has become a very serious, offensive, and a very legal issue. One glance at the libel and defamation laws for the owners of internet blog sites would seem to make this very clear and evident.
Good luck with that.
Rule #12 Have No Idea What You’re Talking About.
Despite being a lawyer, Ceder seemingly has little to no understanding of how either the First Amendment or Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act actually functions. As Ken White eloquently explained, in response to Ceder’s comment that “[o]ne glance at the libel and defamation laws for the owners of internet blog sites would seem to make this very clear and evident,”
Glance harder, dips**t.
Sounds like Ceder needs to attend Above The Law’s Attorney@Blog’s free speech panel to brush up on the basics.
There you have it. 12 Steps To Ruining Your Reputation. It’s relatively easy to do. Just follow this plan and you’ll be ridiculed in no time.
Keith Lee practices law at Hamer Law Group, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama. He writes about professional development, the law, the universe, and everything at Associate’s Mind. He is also the author of The Marble and The Sculptor: From Law School To Law Practice (affiliate link), published by the ABA. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @associatesmind.