The Names Have Been Redacted To Protect The Innocent Reviewer (Me) From The Litigious Reviewee (Legal Marketing Company That Doesn’t Want You To Know The Truth)
On 07/18/16 I posted a lengthy, detailed review of of a well-known legal marketing services company based on my analysis of their program.
I believe that my evaluation was comprehensive and fair. My review was responsible, balanced, well-researched, and I cited numerous factual sources. I stand by my evaluation of the service 100%.
Cease & Desist
About a month later I received a nasty cease and desist letter from their general counsel threatening legal action if I didn’t remove the review immediately. See the letter at the bottom of this blog post.
The subject line of the letter reads, “Defamation, Unfair Competition and False Advertising”. The letter claims that my statements were “lies, innuendo and misleading statements” meant to “demean, degrade, and disparage our services”.
They said that I had, “intentionally presented yourself to our employees under false pretenses with the intention of gaining internal proprietary information about our processes and procedures.”
In my opinion, understanding their ‘processes and procedures’ and getting information that would help me determine potential ROI is what anyone who is buying any professional service should do. It’s called ‘being a smart consumer.’
They seemed to have a problem with the fact that I occasionally offer my ‘own services as a private marketing consultant.’ Yes, sometimes I do consulting work. But the vast majority of my time (99% of my time) is spend as the director of operations and marketing at one of the most successful law firms in Seattle. A firm that spends a great deal of money on advertising—which is why they were constantly calling me and trying to pitch their services to me.
They have been calling me for years! I often received several calls per week from more than one sales person.
And in the four years preceding my decision to write a review they had sent over 100 promotional emails to me—-each asking for the opportunity to tell me about their company and asking me to evaluate their service.
So I gave them the opportunity. I gave them my valuable time. I asked them the same kinds of questions that I ask any company tries to sell me something.
They just didn’t like I decided against becoming a customer. Nor did they like my decision to publicly share my opinion with others.
Names Have Been Redacted
I took down my review and all associated social media posts the day I received the cease and desist letter.
Today I am re-posting the review but have completely redacted any and all information which could allow someone to identify the company’s identity.
- Redacted Version: REVIEW: Evaluation of Attorney Group Public Media Advertising Service
Originally Posted On: 07/18/16
- Redacted Version: UPDATE TO: Evaluation of Attorney Group Public Media Advertising Service
Originally Posted On: 07/22/16
I stand behind my statements. I am in the process of researching the legal basis of the claims made in the cease and desist letter to determine if I can re-post the review, including the actual company name, in the future.
Where Are The Reviews?
If you would like to know the identity of the company then contact me directly. Anyone who know the identity of company may wonder why it is almost impossible to find a negative review on the Internet. Only one Houston-based attorney has ever extensively blogged about his personal experience with the company. Most other lawyers are strangely silent.
There are two things you need to know about the lack of customer reviews. 1-) the company has an iron-clad ‘hush clause’ in their Advertising Services Agreement which prevents former customers from sharing their less than satisfying experience; and 2-) the company will bully and threaten with litigation any non-customer who writes a review.
Do You Have ‘Freedom of Speech’ When It Comes To Writing Reviews?
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law abridging the freedom of speech–it one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights. I thought this protected my right to an educated (or uneducated) opinion.
But apparently under federal law — 47 U.S.C. § 230 — websites like Yelp, Google, Avvo and Angie’s List are shielded from being sued for defamation, but review writers — people like you and me — may be legally responsible for what they write and lawsuits may be filed against them.
Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)
Businesses and executives are increasingly suing individuals who exercise their First Amendment rights by posting reviews.
Every year thousands of individuals are sued for exercising free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These suits are sometimes referred to as “SLAPPs” — Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
SLAPPs are civil complaints in which the alleged injury was the result of free speech activities. SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as defamation (libel or slander), and interference with prospective economic advantage.
The Washington Act Limiting Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation can be found at Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.525, to counter a SLAPP suit. The statute allows a person to file a special motion to strike any claim that is based on your public statements about an issue of public concern.
California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, provides for a special motion to strike a complaint where the complaint arises from activity exercising the rights of petition and free speech.
I did not write the negative with the purpose of trying to ruin the reputation of the company. I wrote a truthful, honest review about my experience, and the thought process behind my evaluation process.
Again, I stand behind my statements. I am in the process of researching the legal basis of the claims made in the cease and desist letter to determine if I can re-post the review, including the actual company name, in the future.
The Cease & Desist Letter: Defamation, Unfair Competition & False Advertising
Redacted Version: REVIEW: Evaluation of Attorney Group Public Media Advertising Service
Originally Posted On: 07/18/16
Redacted Version: UPDATE TO: Evaluation of Attorney Group Public Media Advertising Service
Originally Posted On: 07/22/16