“[L]awyers who omit dates from their websites and blogs. This is wrong”

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The inimitable Scott Greenfield, calling it like he sees it:

And if one wants to fix the problem of opaqueness in the legal profession, the solution isn’t deceit, puffery and omission of material facts, but accuracy and honesty.

The one thing that stands out above all others are lawyers who omit dates from their websites and blogs. This is wrong, and whenever I see “Harvard Law School” without a date, it tells me that this lawyer is concealing a simple, basic fact. Concealment is hardly transparency.

Read Without Dates, You Intentionally Deceive

,

  • http://www.passthebaton.biz/ Susan Gainen

    Ditto for resumes. No one is fooled by omitting dates on a resume.

  • http://adamlillylaw.com/ Adam Lilly

    When a client meets me, they’re going to know I’m young. They’ll see that in the photos on my website as well (though I have grown a beard with the sole intention of looking older – which I guess Scott wouldn’t approve of). When they see the diploma and bar certificates in my offices, they can get dates. This is all before they’ve hired me.

    But why shouldn’t I get a shot to meet with them and try to show them that I’m competent, though new? The newness is more likely to be a problem before they’ve met me, when they might be imagining some bumbling idiot. If they’re willing to meet with me, the experience is far less likely to be a factor, because I’m candid, confident, and honest with them about their needs and my ability to serve those needs. I don’t see what’s dishonest about it.

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      There’s a scam used by unscrupulous retailers called “bait and switch,” where they offer a product for sale at a particular price, then substitute in a different product of cheaper quality or the same product at a higher price. The theory is that once you’ve got them in the store, the burden of the visit and need for the product will cause some to buy despite the fraud perpetrated on them to get them there.

      You don’t see what’s dishonest about it?

      • http://adamlillylaw.com/ Adam Lilly

        It would be a bait-and-switch if I’d either baited or switched. In this case, I’ve done neither. It’s not like I’m posting pictures of a man in his mid-fifties. I post a picture of myself, as I actually look, on my website. I am visibly young, though bearded. That’s what they see before they come in, and when they get here.

        Is it dishonest for an older lawyer to grow a beard? Or is it only dishonest for me because of my intent? Is it more honest to be clean shaven – because in that case, I would appear to be about 5 years younger than I actually am, which would be even more of a misrepresentation of my true age (which we’re using as a proxy for experience).

        Is it dishonest for a more experienced colleague of mine to send me referrals without mentioning my age to the client? I know you guys are all about word of mouth (which I’m with you on) – but is it misleading if they don’t include enough words?

        The word “experience” doesn’t appear on my website anywhere, because with only 2 years in, I felt that would actually be misleading. My year of graduation is one of thousands of relevant pieces of information about me that I don’t include, just as I know other lawyers who don’t mention that they have a temper, that they are preoccupied with a huge case right now, that they are recovering alcoholics, that they have losing records, etc. In fact, some of you omit from your sites that you’re asses. You cannot possibly paint the complete picture on a website. Some of those things will be things a client would like to know.

        • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

          Too late, Adam. You argued bait and switch in your first comment. You can’t argue your way out of it now. Reminder: You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

          • http://adamlillylaw.com/ Adam Lilly

            Yes, I clearly did.
            “they’re going to know I’m young. They’ll see that in the photos on my website”

    • JA

      Heh, that’s the same scam used by call girls in the classified sections of seedy magazines. Make yourself sound hot to get them to visit you and and then wham-o you find out in person what “experienced” really means.

    • Gene

      I don’t see it as deception. If someone really cares about what year you went to school, they can look it up. We say ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it, why do we make exceptions predatory lending practices and thorough background checks?

      • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

        Yes, it’s the client’s fault for not performing adequate due diligence on your bio, and certainly not your fault for concealing material facts that you think might reflect poorly on you.

        And the hole gets deeper.

        • Gene

          Did you have a client question your experience? Did they bring up the number of years you’ve been in practice? I’d like to know.

          • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

            No, Gene. This has nothing to do with a client questioning my experience. Hard as it must be for you to imagine, there are a great many lawyers who are deeply concerned about the devolving ethics on the internet that are turning it into a cesspool, and lawyers into liars.

            You probably can’t imagine why anyone would bother if there wasn’t money involved. It seems to be the recurring theme with young lawyers trying to rationalize why older lawyers won’t just let them do as they please.

    • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

      “When a client meets me, they’re going to know I’m young.”

      So why lie? Or obfuscate the obvious?

  • Gyi

    I try to only hire lawyers with beards. Just make sure that if you shave it, you update all of your online profiles. I’ve seen lawyers that use images with and without facial hair seemingly interchangeably. It’s very misleading to me.

  • http://thetrialwarrior.com/ Antonin I. Pribetic

    Client: “I’m pleased to meet you.”

    Lawyer: “Likewise, I’m sure.”

    Client: “Listen, I don’t mean to be nosy, but you look awful young.”

    Lawyer: “Age ain’t nuthin’ but a number.”

    Client: “Well, your website says that you’re “AGGRESSIVE. EXPERIENCED. COMPASSIONATE”.

    Lawyer: “Are you callin’ me a liar! I’ve been at this game since…oh, never mind. I feel your anxiety. I’m here to help you build your case with bricks of truth and mortar of justice. Did I mention I offer alternative billing options and have thousands of Twitter followers?”

    Client: “In that case, you’re hired. Where do I sign?”

  • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

    Don’t ask, don’t tell. Right? Why be completely up front with the client if you don’t have to be? I mean, as long as they know you’re “passionate” and that you “care,” what else matters?

  • Dave

    Admission date is important whether you are old or young… it’s not about *age* it’s about how long you’ve been *practicing law*. I’m older than most of the baby lawyers out there because I didn’t go to law school for over a decade after college. But my admit date is on my website for all to see, because _it is relevant to my experience level in practicing law_. It’s not about your age, kiddies…

  • JTD

    I agree with Adam. The legal jobs market being the way it is today it is difficult enough for young lawyers to find any legal employment. For those brave young lawyers willing to ignore the naysayers and hang their own shingle, it will be difficult enough trying to find clients without handicapping yourself by broadcasting your inexperience in the name of so-called “transparency”. We can all agree that it is unethical for young lawyers to make false claims regarding experience, and that they should be held accountable if they do so – but I don’t think omitting the year in which you received your JD should be regarded as equally unethical. Older lawyers do it as well when they don’t want clients to know how old they are. It seems to me that the author must feel he is losing business to freshly minted lawyers and is pissed off about it.

    • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

      JTD, it’s the other way around pal – the young lawyers are hiding their admission dates so they don’t lose cases to older lawyers, but we never have a discussion about young lawyers without someone saying that older lawyers are concerned about losing business to “freshly minted lawyers.”

      There is no ethics rule about listing your graduation or admission date. There is an unwritten rule that if you don’t, you are very young. You’re really not hiding anything, except to the clients you are trying to not tell the truth.

      • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

        You need to understand that baby lawyers need to maintain some shred of dignity to grasp as they rationalize their entitlement to deceive. If they create this fiction that experience lawyers are jealous or fearful, they don’t have to face their own lack of an ethical compass and can continue to pretend they aren’t really being deceptive.

        Since the only thing they think about is money, they assume that’s true of everyone else as well. It allows them to pretend they aren’t swimming in a cesspool.

    • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

      How about you tell the truth instead of trying to hide it?

      Is it hard? Yeah. Being a lawyer is hard. Tough.

      If you wanted easy, go be a fry cook.

      Sincerely,
      -A young lawyer who “handicaps” himself by broadcasting his inexperience in the name of honesty.

      • JTD

        I’m not advising that young lawyers lie if questioned by potential clients about what year they graduated, or their level of experience – I just don’t see what purpose posting one’s graduating year serves, so long as your not making misrepresentations about your experience elsewhere on your site.

        And since when is blind aggression a good trait in a blog comment anyway?

        Sincerely,

        A bro who thinks its totally not chill when peer bros condescend from an imaginary moral high ground.

        • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

          It’s so that clients can make an informed decision about who their counsel is.

          Look, I know this might shock you, but there is such a thing as “misrepresentation by omission.” Although you didn’t tell any lies, per se, you didn’t exactly give enough information to give people the full picture. “This is a beautiful house, it’s in a great neighborhood, and it’s got central air.” (I don’t need to mention the structural defects, right? I’m not LYING! I’m just not mentioning it)

          Why omit the year you were admitted? Oh, right… to people don’t have the full picture. By presenting a partial picture, you’re being honest (technically), but certainly not candid.

          • JTD

            I do not think it is okay for young lawyers to misrepresent their level of experience to clients. Lawyers should be forthcoming and honest if a potential client asks about their experience. However, if an attorney makes no such false claims on their website anywhere and instead promotes himself based on his constant availability to his clients and personal service – I see no issue with that lawyer not listing the year he graduated if that is the ONLY thing you can point to as a misrepresentation. The clients will see that he is young and can ask questions about his experience, which the lawyer should answer truthfully, at an initial interview before making the decision to retain him as counsel.

            • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

              ” Lawyers should be forthcoming and honest if a potential client asks about their experience.”

              “If.”

              Deplorable.

              • JTD

                T- Bomb,

                I respect your position and commend you for being such an ardent defendant of professional ethics… I just sympathize with young lawyers. They shouldn’t be outright lying, but if leaving off their graduating year gets more potential clients in the door, where upon full disclosure the young attorney may be still able to sell them on his passion and commitment to their case… I just don’t see that singular omission as a big a problem as falsely claiming past experience or success.

                • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

                  I know.

                  Reading your philosophy just makes me want to take a shower, like one of those panic showers from the movies where I was just in the dirtiest place in the world and I can’t scrub the dirt off fast enough.

                  • JTD

                    Haha sorry brah…. you just can’t convince me Adam Lilley is a bad lawyer or a bad guy because he doesn’t have what year he graduated on his website…

                    • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

                      I understand your way of thinking. Really, I do. If they ask, it’s fair game. If omitting it brings clients in the door and it’s not proscribed as unethical, it’s a win for the lawyer.

                      I get it. I do.

          • http://pospislaw.com/ Mike Pospis

            Terrible analogy. A lawyer’s date of admission can be learned with a minimum of effort, at least in New York. In addition a lawyer’s date of admission isn’t necessarily indicative of competence.

        • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

          I can explain it to you, but I can’t make you understand it.

    • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

      The ethical rules are the absolutely minimum of what you must do to keep your law license. You’re basically saying lawyers should do the minimum.

      If that’s your attitude, hell, do the minimum on every case just so much that you avoid a malpractice lawsuit at the end.

      Great result, right? I avoided a malpractice lawsuit.

      • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

        “1st-Degree Murder…MISTRIAL!”

        Why does that sound so familiar?

  • Robert Ramirez

    Yes. Lawyers claiming that they are “experienced” when they are young. THAT’S what is wrong with the legal profession today. Following the same line of thought, I fully expect all attorneys to alter their websites to have content devoted to their lost cases, unsatisfied clients, and a detailed log of their “bad hair days”.

    Accused of professional misconduct or had a complaint levied to your state BAR? I’m gonna need you to put that on your business cards.

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      What’s wrong is rampant deception. No amount of argument makes deception acceptable, no matter how entitled you may feel to lie.

      Facetious as you are trying to be, there is actually a point to be made in your comment. If a lawyer promotes his wins, then he should also promote his losses. Same problem of providing half information for the positive while concealing the negative. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Gyi

    “Nationally Recognized for Excellence
    Highly Experienced in Trials and Appeals”

    Milquetoast puffery? Is this wrong?

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      Or fact based and accurate. When you’ve tried as many cases and argued as many appeals in federal and state jurisdictions across the country, you too can say this truthfully. You’re really not getting this whole truth thing.

      • Gyi

        I have reason to believe that the ad is true. But is it misleading? Are “excellence” & “highly experienced” inherently misleading, under the rules? Isn’t that what Josh was talking about? Isn’t that what we’re really talking about here?

        Is the omission a lie? Or is the issue that the omission is misleading?

        By the way, congratulations on batting 100%.

        • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

          There’s no omission, Gyi. If I include my law school, it’s not an omission to not include every award I won or honor I received. That’s gilding the lilly, an entirely different concept. Nor does it say, or suggest, batting 100%. Your grasping at straws.

          • Gyi

            Hmm… I must have misunderstood this:

            providing half information for the positive while concealing the negative.

            My point was really that even truthful statements may be misleading.

            I.e. new lawyer who has never had a case says “I’ve never lost a case.”

            • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

              Reductio ad absurdum, Gyi. Yes, that would be a truthful statement that is misleading, but once we devolve into logical fallacies, the only place left to go is Godwin’s Law. Let’s not go there.

              • Gyi

                I can’t keep up with all this Latin and Shakespeare.

                I understood your point to be that if lawyers want to post “good” things about themselves, in order not to mislead, they must also post the “bad.”

                I shall chalk my misunderstanding up to lack of experience and the limitations of communication via comment box.

  • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

    Hey there young guys who claim it’s too hard to be honest about your admit date—

    I’m a 2010 grad. You know what it says on my website?

    “JD 2010.”

    Don’t forget that your bar admission date is on Avvo. Any client with Google, 10 extra seconds, and your name can find it out in a heartbeat. Whether you choose to disclose your graduation date on your site is up to you, but it says a hell of a lot about your character. If you’re willing to try and hide that very-openly-available-public-information tidbit, why should a client trust you with their important, confidential matters — regardless of how “aggressive” you are?

    And since when is blind aggression a good character trait in a lawyer?

    Sincerely,

    A young lawyer who’s tired of other young lawyers making excuses.

    • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

      ha ha ha, you graduated in 2010. I will never hire you because you are a young lawyer. Never ever ever, until at least like 5 years from now. STARVE YOUNG MAN

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    When it comes to misleading-ness, I’m in full agreement with the sentiment of Scott, Brian, Antonin, Leo, et al. I just don’t think graduation date — or the passage of time in general — is necessarily a good indicator of experience.

    For example, my graduation date (2003, if you want to know; and yes, it’s on my website) is a reasonable indication of my experience when it comes to some kinds of civil litigation. It’s an extremely poor indication of my experience with criminal defense. It’s even a poor indication of my experience representing businesses, which I only started doing a few years ago. Since my website says I represent businesses, should I have to put an asterisk after that date with a footnote stating the year I started representing businesses?

    The same goes for other indicators of the passage of time. Lawyers who look old and experienced in photos may have graduated from law school only recently. Lawyers who graduated long ago may have pursued non-practicing careers for a while. Lawyers who look young in photos may not have updated those photos in years (Scott falls into this category, methinks), resulting in the same sort of bait and switch for potential clients who want to hire a “young go-getter.”

    Graduation dates are a red herring. You’ve got to assess misleading-ness by looking at the website or marketing campaign as a whole.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Lawyers who look young in photos may not have updated those photos in years (Scott falls into this category, methinks), resulting in the same sort of bait and switch for potential clients who want to hire a “young go-getter.”

      Not that I think anyone looking for a “young go-getter” would call Scott.

      • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

        Ironically, the best pic of me (the one where I look incredibly young) was the one taken by the ABA. It’s also the most recent. Maybe I’m just aging well.

    • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

      Oh no, I think you just called Scott old. You going to take that standing up, Scott?

      • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

        Not if he can scold me from his easy chair, he won’t.

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      In what conceivable way does conealing dates enhance accuracy? Raising zebras doesn’t change that. They are one of the few immutable facts all lawyers possess, and their deliberate omission is inexcusable. If a lawyer wants to add additional information about his practice that further illuminates the experience he’s gained, or not gained, that’s great too. One would usually find this information in a lawyer’s resume, telling in accurate detail what he’s done in his practice.

      And should a client want a young, go-getter, that’s great. They should be able to find that lawyer. But there is never a reason to intentionally conceal the dates of graduation or admission.

      • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

        There is only one response to this:

        “I don’t want to put the year I graduated on my website, for whatever reason, because I don’t want that information readily accessible to potential clients. I omitted such information because my goal is to present the public with partial information. However, I believe concealing such information is justified because…”

        Well, tell me. Why is that justified?

        • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

          I think you’ve said it better than me, Jordan. There is no legitimate justification.

        • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

          I initially assumed I didn’t have my graduation date on my website. The reason I didn’t think it was there is because I don’t think the vast majority of clients notice or care about graduation dates. I think it’s the kind of thing we put on our websites that doesn’t actually matter much to anyone. If I’m right, this conversation is pretty academic.

          Assuming clients do care, I don’t think publishing your graduation date makes your website magically non-misleading, just like omitting it doesn’t necessarily make your website misleading.

          • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

            It’s inclusion may or may not be significant. It’s deliberate omission (unless someone claims they just forgot when they were admitted), on the other hand, is quite revealing.

            That’s the point.

            • http://thetrialwarrior.com Antonin I. Pribetic

              “Fake it ’til you make it” is the new ethic. E&O.E. (for the non-lawyers, that means Errors & Omissions Excluded, which you’ll find at the bottom of your legal accounts).

    • http://www.litigationandtrial.com/ Max Kennerly

      Lawyer A has run a mixed personal injury (mostly minor car accidents) and criminal defense (mostly DUI and misdemeanors) solo practice for 25 years. Lawyer B has been involved in rape counseling and sexual violence advocacy since freshman year of college, and has practiced law for 7 years, including helping 2 rape victims through the criminal process and working as an associate on a high-profile clergy abuse case, and he now works at a plaintiff’s firm with 4 lawyers.

      Which is the more experienced sexual abuse lawyer?

      Lawyer A is same as above. Lawyer B obtained an M.D., then spent three years working abroad for Medicines Sans Frontiers, then practice as an emergency physician for 8 years, then attended law school, and has practiced law for 3 years at a firm that routinely represents plaintiffs in malpractice cases, in which he has second-chaired 4 trials.

      Which is the more experienced medical malpractice lawyer?

      The idea that the year of graduation alone somehow conveys a significant amount of useful information to a potential client is silly. Does someone look at the photo on my website and get deceived into thinking I’m in my 50s and have been practicing for 25+ years? Do people really come in, talk with me, and then walk away pondering what it must have been like when I started practicing law in grade school?

      No and no. This whole debate presupposes that clients choose lawyers the way they choose mail order gift baskets, just a couple clicks on the Internet based on the numbers and, boom, it’s done, and that there are thousands of clients out there who, gosh, got a 2 year lawyer after some clicky-clicky on the Net when they could have easily gotten a 30 year lawyer for their slamdunk case. It doesn’t work that way. As I’ve said before, if we’re going to worry about anything in lawyer marketing, we should worry about falsity; that will keep us plenty busy without wasting time on irrelevant issues.

      • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

        I was re-reading your post the other day “Be a Potted Plant.” Great post. It reflected someone who has been through a lot of depositions and federal litigation.

        Yeah, although someone might not have any experience in medical malpractice or a certain area of law, it sure is comforting to know that this isn’t my lawyer’s first deposition, appeal, or trial.

        Personally, I took my experience in insurance defense and applied it to more general stuff. It’s been immensely helpful to have handled litigation from a complaint through an appeal, even if the subject matter changes.

      • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

        Cool stories, Max. I particularly like how you create fictional anecdotes with outlier self-serving assumptions and try to inductively extrapolate it to a general rule. Tails wagging dogs is great argument, particularly since logical fallacies are for chumps.

        But the best part is where you decide that people don’t care about facts, and if they did, shift the burden to clients to relieve the person who intentionally omits the facts of any duty not to conceal. After all, if you say it’s silly, then all those people who want to know are just silly gooses and all those marketers who advise new lawyers to conceal the dates are just spouting silliness.

        Everything is silly, except what’s important to Max, the core of all Max’s arguments.. This changes everything. Except clients still want to know whether a lawyer is experienced. But who cares. They’re just being silly. Thanks for clearing this up.

        • http://www.litigationandtrial.com/ Max Kennerly

          At what point are you going drop the ad hominem and address the issue? Slapping a bar admission date on a website tells a client nothing about relevant experience. Am I more experienced in criminal law someone who has served as a public defender for five years?

  • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

    “And should a client want a young, go-getter, that’s great. They should be able to find that lawyer. But there is never a reason to intentionally conceal the dates of graduation or admission.”

    This is how I see it too.

    When I meet criminal defense clients, I often explain it like this: “You can see that I’m young. What you may not see is that I’m a go-getter. If you want that, I’m your man. But if you want an attorney with grey hair — and there are plenty of them in this city — go hire one. I want you to have an attorney you’re comfortable with.

    No matter what, understand that I will be 100% committed to your case and honest with you.”

    This ensures that I have clients who are 100% on board, and who know that I am not going to fudge the facts. I’d rather that than a bar complaint that I claimed I was an “experienced expert with aggressive trial experience.”

    • http://www.litigationandtrial.com/ Max Kennerly

      Good for you. Your cases are routinely stolen by lawyers with 15+ years of experience who tell the potential client that, for all 15+ of those years, they focused exclusively on subrogation claims following an employee trapped in a restaurant freezer, or on DUI arrests by Sergeant Jones on Roosevelt Boulevard on Sundays, or on untimely delivery of cheesesteak toppings to food trucks, or what not.

      No, this isn’t an encouragement for you to lie. Rather, it’s a recognition that the real problems in this profession have everything to do with falsity and zilch to do with putting your year of graduation on your website.

  • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

    Alright, I’m a little too busy to keep up with this right now. Because I have a number of real, actual clients who didn’t immediately run away when they Googled me and found out that I graduated in 2008 and my partner graduated in 2010, who need my attention. And yeah, that information is actually on our website, so you know, people can find it easily.

    Most importantly, some of you don’t seem to understand a basic concept fundamental to being a lawyer: you have a fiduciary obligation to tell your clients the truth. Warts and all. You blew a statute of limitations and it messed up your client’s case? You need to tell them to consult a legal malpractice attorney. The court granted summary judgment and threw your client’s case out of court? It’s your obligation to tell them that. Your client wants to pay you $25k to handle a case, but their facts suck and you’re almost certain they will lose in court? It’s your job to tell them. You think your client might be better off with someone a little more experienced, or who focuses on that area of law? Tell them that.

    Your responsibility is to be their fiduciary, and doing that means telling them the truth.

    When you got your bar card, that is the responsibility you assumed. To put client’s interests over your own.

    That’s what it means to be a lawyer.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Correct, but I don’t think you have a fiduciary duty to non-clients, which would include people looking at your website who are interested in hiring you. You have other duties, mostly imposed by the rules of professional conduct and the rules of not being a smarmy, misleading, sleazeball, but I’m not convinced those other duties include a duty to publish your graduation date.

      • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

        No RPC’s duties are the minimum. It’s what you need to do in order to avoid losing your bar card.

        Do you HAVE to publish your bar date? Nope, absolutely not.

        But that’s not the question…

        SHOULD you publish your date of admission? In my opinion, absolutely. You are becoming a fiduciary to those who choose to hire you. Don’t you want to build that relationship on trust and honesty? I sure do.

      • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

        Go back to the beginning, Sam. The duty is not to conceal a material fact. The duty (and it’s even in the rules!) not to deceive, and concealment of a material fact is deceptive. Like it or not, when we become lawyers, we undertake this duty.

        • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

          Agreed. But I’m still not convinced a lawyer’s graduation date is a material fact.

          • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

            So why do some lawyers omit their date of admission…?

            • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

              Bingo.

            • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

              Some, because they are trying to be misleading. Others, because they haven’t thought about it, because they don’t think it is relevant, because they are posting a bio statement rather than a CV, or because they don’t think it is an accurate representation of their experience.

              • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

                Yeah, I’m pretty sure a lot of lawyers just didn’t think about it when writing all that other stuff about themselves, or thought that while it was relevant to include their law school, it wasn’t relevant to include their date of graduation. Yup. It can happen.

                • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

                  Imagine the cross-examination…

                  “So you remembered to put down where you went to law school, the fact you were on mock trial in college, that three month internship you did for a solo practitioner, a LexisNexis certification, the A you got in civil procedure, and your participation in a minor law journal… but you didn’t think to put down when you were admitted?”

                  “Um… uh… no… that didn’t cross didn’t cross my mind.”

                  “Don’t you think that’s an important fact?”

                  “Uhhhh… no….”

                  “I have nothing further.”

                  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

                    We are obviously talking about different factual scenarios.

              • Gene

                Exactly.

        • dbf

          Whether a lawyer is black or white is material to some clients. Duty to disclose race? I think not (nor is it for age – high OR low)

  • Gyi

    How about grades? Surely those are material.

    • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

      Gyi, I’ve often wanted to put on my bio that I created the top 10% in law school.

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      Surely? And what about the names of each lawprof. And their schools? Huh? Surely that’s material. And their year of graduation? That’s material too, right.

      This really falls under the “in a hole, stop digging” trope. You’re just getting crazy, Gyi. Surely you must realize just how deep the hole is.

      • Gyi

        Surely :)

      • Gyi

        And stop voting my comments down!

        • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

          I stopped clicking on the thumb things when I found out it didn’t mean you get thrown to the lions. What a waste.

        • Gene

          *voted down*

    • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

      No one has offered me a plausible explanation for this question:

      Why would someone omit the year they were admitted to the bar…?

      The only answer I can think of, and perhaps I am a bit dense, is “Because I don’t want clients knowing when I was admitted to the bar.”

      If you have a good explanation, however, I am all ears.

      • http://thetrialwarrior.com Antonin I. Pribetic

        Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your (y)ears!

        • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

          The only answer I’ve gotten is “You don’t need to list the year you were admitted.”

          Fine. That’s correct. I’m not aware of any bar association requiring you to put the year you were admitted.

          But that is not my point, nor my question.

          What is the reason for omitting the year you were admitted? The only answer I can come up with is “I don’t want people to know that.”

          • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

            Jordan, the nuanced distinction, that failure to be subject to discipline is not the same thing as ethical, is a fine one which, it appears, is very easily missed. You’ve made it a few times here, and as far as I can tell, no one has picked up on it.

          • http://thetrialwarrior.com Antonin I. Pribetic

            “Are You (Legally) Experienced?” ~Jimi Hendrix’s Estate Lawyer

            If you can just get your website together
            Then come on across to me
            We’ll hold hands and then we’ll watch the lawsuit rise
            From the bottom of my fee

            But first, are you experienced?
            Have you ever been experienced?
            Well, I have

            I know, I know you probably scream and cry
            That your ethics won’t let you go
            But who in your measly little world
            Are you trying to prove that
            You’re made out of gold and, eh, can’t be sold

            So, are you experienced?
            Have you ever been experienced?
            Well, I have

            Let me prove you…

            Trumpets and violins I can hear in distance
            I think they’re calling your online name
            Maybe now you can’t hear them, but you will
            If you just take hold of my marketing game

            Oh, but are you experienced?
            Have you ever been experienced?
            Not necessarily misleading, but untrue

  • Stephen

    It seems that the focus here is on “young lawyers” omitting their dates of graduation from their profile pages, but I think this is also an issue with some older or more seasoned lawyers.

    For instance, I have seen seasoned lawyers who have failed the bar exam omit their date of admittance to the bar from their blog and/or website.

    In the mind of the consumer, the lawyer’s date of admission to the bar is certainly more important than the date of graduation because it is a better indicator of the lawyer’s competence to practice law.

    • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

      In the firm where I am Of Counsel, they don’t have my date of admission on the website. (although I would rather they did, but I don’t make those decisions)

      BUT, our clients are not individuals. They are corporations and insurance companies, and the people making the hiring decisions often have more litigation experience than the associates. And the hiring decisions are usually based on a number of factors, including the partners’ results at trial, experience, etc.

      So your point isn’t without merit.

    • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

      Both dates are material, and both should be included, and the same is true for a young lawyer as an old one.

  • http://pospislaw.com/ Mike Pospis

    To those in the “disclose all material facts” camp: I assume that you disclose each case you’ve lost, each of your criminal defense clients who was convicted, that nasty “C” you got in law school, etc. etc. etc. because these things – at least the first two – are at least as relevant to a prospective client as is a date of admission. Funny thing though – I have yet to see, on any lawyer’s website, a listing of “convicted clients”, “summary judgment losses”, etc.

    • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

      Pospis, do you read bar rules, ever?

      In Florida, past results are prohibited – good OR BAD. Not that any lawyer would put bad past results, but again, IN SOME OR MANY STATES, ITS NOT LEGAL, ITS UNETHICAL.

      OK?

      • http://pospislaw.com/ Mike Pospis

        Brian,

        I don’t know what the law is in FL; I don’t practice there. But my understanding is that in NY prior results may be listed as long as the listing complies with NYRPC 7.1.

        As an aside, I think that any reference to “Superlawyers” (and the like) is potentially misleading to individual clients, absent a full description of their selection/inclusion process.

        Mike

        • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

          I don’t think anyone has said it’s unethical not to post your date of graduation. It won’t get you disbarred, or even so much as an inquiry from the state bar association.

          Perhaps this point is subtle, but disciplinary rules are a minimum. It’s the bottom line of what you must do not to get in trouble.

          Although you’re not prohibited from omitting a fact which most of us would agree is material, is that how you want to run your practice? Are you the type of person who will omit any material fact that they’re not absolutely required to disclose?

          Why not just be transparent about everything? Because transparency is bad for business…?

          • http://pospislaw.com/ Mike Pospis

            Jordan,

            Your enthusiasm is admirable but I’m not sure you practice what you preach.

            For example, your website says that as a law firm associate you “handled commercial litigation matters, which included property preservation defense, general liability insurance defense, eminent domain, commercial contract disputes, construction litigation, and business disputes”.
            In context it appears that the word “handled” is being used as a substitute for “managed”, thus giving the impression that you and you alone were responsible for prosecuting these matters. Were you? If so I stand corrected (and impressed). But, as many of us who worked as law firm associates know, rarely if ever do associates have the responsibility that your website implies you had.

            I am assuming that you deliberately selected the word “handled” – as opposed to, say, “worked on” – for a reason.

            What was that reason?

            Mike

            • Brian Tannebaum

              Pospis, are you actually a lawyer?

              • http://pospislaw.com/ Mike Pospis

                oh, man. 2 likes? really? i’m bad at this.

              • http://pospislaw.com/ Mike Pospis

                oh, right. your question. no. shhhhhh – don’t tell anyone, k?

            • http://thetrialwarrior.com Antonin I. Pribetic

              Mike,

              You may want to reconsider taking the low road here.

              If you are implying that Jordan is misrepresenting his experience, then you owe him an apology.

              If you are merely questioning his verb choice, then your point is trivial.

              No one is going to fault you for putting your best foot forward in your solo practice marketing efforts; your “firm” bio self-description as ” the principal attorney and founding member of Pospis Law”, notwithstanding.

              While lawyers will understand your choice of the word “principal” as an adjective, non-lawyers may or may not infer that you have associates or juniors at your disposal.

            • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

              That is a very good argument. I am humbled and shamed. There is just no retort I can come up with.

              You’ve exposed me as a fraud.

              Now I haz a sad. :(

  • http://www.texasemploymentlawblog.com Christopher McKinney

    Yes, omitting important facts or misleading potential clients in any way is completely unacceptable. However, I don’t see this as a “marketing” issue so much as an issue of whether the lawyer can ethically be taking on the work at all.
    If you are inexperienced enough that you are concerned that potential clients won’t even give you an interview for a type of matter if they know the truth, then that is your heart telling you that perhaps you should not be trying to take on these types of cases unless you are working with or under a more experienced attorney.
    I will probably get flamed for this but I personally believe that it is rarely if ever a good idea for a newly minted lawyer to hang a shingle to practice on their own. I would much rather see you take a job working for peanuts for another lawyer for several years. Pay your dues. Get some experience. Find a mentor. Yes, it is hard to do but it’s worth it.
    Then you won’t have to worry about artfully wording your website so that it is “technically true”.

    • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

      “I will probably get flamed for this but I personally believe that it is rarely if ever a good idea for a newly minted lawyer to hang a shingle to practice on their own.”

      I wholeheartedly absolutely 120% agree.

      I clerked full time in law school, and then worked as a full time associate from 2008 – 2012. I’m still also Of Counsel at a traditional law firm.

      There are many days that I still worry I didn’t give it enough time. Thankfully, my former bosses and guys like Greenfield are willing to answer the phone.

  • http://www.mycase.com/ Nicole Black

    “88 Comments.” At first glance I figured I thought that was a glitch. Apparently not. Who knew this topic would result in so many comments?

    Sam–is this an all-time record? If not, what’s the record for comments to a single post at Lawyerist?

    • http://mylawlicense.blogspot.com BRIAN TANNEBAUM

      Actually Niki, stay tuned, I hear there’s going to be a post on the definition of “practicing lawyer.”

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Oh, I think we’ve got close to 200 on a few posts in the archives. It’s still unusual for a post to get more than a couple dozen, though.

  • guest

    Comment number 100. Yeah!
    Great conversation guys.

  • Eric Anderson

    When I first saw this thread my reaction was , “So what?”. If there were no rules requiring a listing of dates of graduation or admission, what does it matter? Does this really come up often? On the list of things wrong in this profession how high does this rank? To my surprise to some people, it matters a great deal.

    As I mentioned on twitter, I can not say I am bothered by a lawyer not listing their date of graduation or date of admission. In my case I do put the year of admission but not because of some overwhelming sense of obligation. Its because the state bar where I practice has me listed as being in admitted in 2006, which is true. But I started my legal career in MA, in 2002. Adding my years, for me, is showing my experience. I list how long I worked as a prosecutor at each D.A.’s office, the approximate number of trials and rate of conviction at trial. I list actual matters I,and I alone, managed at County counsel for my civil Experience. There is no bait and switch when you list over 10 years of work (excluding my experience in other areas), people can tell it is ten years of work and what it is in. No one ever asks me when I graduated or when I was admitted, the question is always “How long have you been a lawyer?” and I just answer with the years.

    Based upon what I knew I was presenting, it never occurred to me to list dates. Though after being smacked around by Mr. Greenfield on twitter I took a look at the pages for web submission when the site goes up Nov.1 and sure enough, there were the dates. I can not take credit for that because its based on an old firm bio. The question i suppose is will I remove it or not? just like I saw no reason to include it, I see no reason to exclude it now.

    But there was an interesting question posed to me regarding this issue. If someone does not have years of experience to list, should they then omit the year of admission or graduation? To me that is multi-layered. If there is no bar requirement that he or she divulge on their site or at all, then from an ethical standpoint, I do not see a problem. Maybe from a moral standpoint, but I leave that to the individual attorney. It has no impact in my practice at all.

    From a marketing standpoint, the first instinct is to exclude it. But if the fact one is a new attorney is going to come up, then why not have it (The Greenfield position, I believe) And it has to come up. At some point, You have to tell clients that you have never done a particular action before. Or you are going to pretend that you have done something you have not. Surely a new attorney can tell a client, “This is my first ________ case. You should know that. And I will treat it as if my life depends on it because you are my client and that is the kind of attorney I wish to be.”

    But for those who truly bait and switch. Who claim experience they do not have, and offices they do not have or associates they do not have, the listing of a graduation or admission date is the least of your worries. Being new and having it known may lead to less potential clients, but having a client who knows you are new and is willing to bet on you will mean a lot more to your career than a giant net with a hole in it.

    Finally, for those younger/newer attorneys riling against the old guard, just do not do it. No matter how smart or talented you may be, there is no substitute for experience. Yes, they can be rude and condescending, but keep in mind how many rude comments or emails they may have already read by the time they get to you. Do a Greenfield or Tannenbaum have all of the answers right for you? No. But they , and those like them,have seen all of the questions. Even if an older attorney’s answers do not work for you, respectfully ask how they came to those answers. There is a value in learning that process and taking that knowledge. Had I done so, I would have realized my time spent in my local pub was more important than the time I spent listening to the opinions of others on my firm logo and letterhead (The former produced 5 paying clients. The latter produced 50 opinions and no money.) So show a little respect, please.