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Written by Norman Clark
Published: 23 February 2016
Hits: 3600
photography of Groucho Marx

"I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member."

-- Groucho Marx

A lawyer's ego can be a profit center --- for someone else.

I recently received an e-mail from an outfit with an address in the United Kingdom, inviting me to become an exclusive member of a worldwide legal network. Like most of these offers, the first few words clearly signaled that this amazing opportunity is not entirely credible:

"You have been highly recommended for membership to [name and URL deleted] by our applications panel and as we are looking to appoint a Business law expert in Florida I have been asked to give you first refusal for the exclusive position."

Amazing news!  And it is doubly amazing because I am not a business lawyer, although a lawyer I am not admitted to practice in Florida, and Walker Clark LLC is not even a law firm.  Either the selection process is fatally flawed, or, more likely, it is non-existent. I recalled the words of the American comedian, Groucho Marx: "I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member."

To be fair, I frequently receive such offers, and none of them are the result of the careful selection process that they misrepresent.

But there is more:

"We received a number of enquires for lawyers in Florida in the last few months of 2015 with a lot of interest specifically for Business lawyers. The enquires came from other members of [name deleted] and directly from businesses using our service and as we do not have a Business law expert in Florida it is vital that we have the Business law profile showing 'live' as possible to enable businesses, private individuals and other members of [name deleted] to contact the expert they are looking for when using our service."

What?! This worldwide network has no other "business law experts" here in the third largest jurisdiction in the United States? Actually, this is truthful. A quick visit to the URL provided in this offer revealed that the only lawyer listed in Florida was a solo personal injury practitioner. 

The e-mail (and the follow-up I received this morning telling me that time is running out to accept this offer) went on to describe all the benefits of this "network," all of which could be mine for only a six-month or full-year fee. To try to bolster the seriousness of this matter, this unsolicited communication also threatened me with "prosecution" if I disclosed or took any other action or omission base on the supposedly "confidential" information it contained. No reasonably educated lawyer would take seriously a unilateral assertion of privilege in spam. Again, I really wonder about the selection process and the assumptions that the sender made about the intelligence of these carefully selected candidates for membership in their exclusive organization.

This offer was not a scam. There really does appear to be an on-line directory, with a modest amount of information about the lawyer, operated by this "network." But even at the low prices quoted for six-month and 12-month memberships, it probably is not a good deal. 

The point is that, at any price, there is no short-cut to building good market visibility and competitive advantage for your law firm. Actually, the questionable credibility of being associated with "networks" or listed in directories like this one might actually hurt a lawyer's reputation. 

Caveat emptor.

Norman Clark