Why Spamming Lawyers is a Terrible Idea.

I may not have made this public yet, but I happen to be a lawyer. You would think that even unscrupulous companies that hawk their wares by spamming unsuspecting people would refrain from attacking lawyers, who are the most frustrated, cantankerous, vengeful, trigger-happy people on the planet. What’s worse, we have a high sense of empowerment. As in, “don’t fuck with me, I am a lawyer.” Nevermind the truth that we are in fact mere peons, cogs in a giant machine. I digress. Like I said, you would think that spammers would not specifically target lawyers.

You would be wrong.

Lately, I have been getting spam from a website called Judged.com. Judged is a website that is simultaneously too late to the game and premature. It is too late to the game because we already have good sites like AboveTheLaw, GreedyAssociates, Vault, and others to tell us about the industry of law. It is premature because it clearly has no focus, no user base, and nothing interesting to add. Oh, and it has lots of annoying pop-up ads. Now it’s suckdom would not be complete, of course, unless it spammed a ton of lawyers to go and visit their site. And spam it has. To my work e-mail account.

Many if not all of my colleagues are now getting daily emails from this reviled website. I suspect this is happening in other law firms as well. I had no idea how I got into this mess. I certainly NEVER requested contact from this company that to date I had never heard of. I suspect some company culled our emails from our firm’s website. Legal recruiters do this all the time to get leads. I did know that I had to get out of it. I get about a hundred emails a day, and those are just the ones I actually have to read.

First, I hit the unsubscribe button. It loaded up the Judged website, noted my email address, and gave me the option to unsubscribe. – Click! – That was satisfying, I thought. Problem solved! The very next day I got another spam. I decided to contact the company, via their “Contact Us” email address provided on their website. End of story right? Not so fast, hoss. Within five minutes I received the following message:

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.
Sent: 2/21/2007 3:51 PM
The following recipient(s) could not be reached:
hbarnes@bcgsearch.com on 2/21/2007 3:52 PM
The destination system is currently not accepting any messages. Please retry at a later time. If that fails, contact your system administrator.
< aj662mps.tempdomainname.com #5.3.0 X-Unix; 73>

Irritating. However, it gave me some information. Looks like their contact email is really a redirect to a certain A. Harrison Barnes at BCG Search. BCG Search is a legal headhunting firm that is either unscrupulous or has unscrupulous employees that it does not know about. (If you can’t tell, I like the word unscrupulous). Evidently, Barnes is a smart guy, having went to U of Chicago and UVA Law School. Guess he was sick the day they taught integrity. I called Barnes and got his secretary. I asked to be removed from the Judged.com list because he was listed as a contact for them. She said that she could do that for me, proving that there is some link between BCG Search and Judged.com Now I don’t know if BCG Search is behind Judged.com or not, but it seems like a lot of effort to come from just one person. I asked how I got on this spam list and she replied she didn’t know, but she did know how she could take me off. I then asked to be taken off, and submitted a complaint to TrustE, as indicated on their Privacy Policy.

Is Judged.com in violation of the law for its shady practices? Now, I don’t purport to be a specialist on the CAN SPAM Act of 2003, but it sure sounds like it fits the bill. Here’s a rundown of the law’s main provisions:

  • It bans false or misleading header information. Your email’s “From,” “To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.
  • It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
  • It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests. You may create a “menu” of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.

It sure seems to me like they haven’t really complied with that last one.

Each violation of the above provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive commercial email also is subject to laws banning false or misleading advertising. Additional fines are provided for commercial emailers who not only violate the rules described above, but also “harvest” email addresses from Web sites or Web services that have published a notice prohibiting the transfer of email addresses for the purpose of sending email.

I guess I wouldn’t have been as annoyed if they weren’t hawking a product that sucked. Anyway, I’m done ranting. This was therapeutic enough without having to go further. Also, this paragraph from Barney’s profile was a real thorn in my balls:

Fourth, Harrison has set extremely high ethical standards for his recruiters. Far from a profit-driven motive, Harrison runs BCG Attorney Search to be at the forefront of ethics. Numerous times, Harrison has rebuffed the merger efforts of other search firms whose ethics and lack of focus were not consistent with his vision for the premier legal recruiting firm in the United States. In addition, Harrison has set extremely high standards for the recruiters at BCG Attorney Search, where ethics are debated on a daily basis and even a perceived ethical violation is not tolerated at any cost. This focus on ethics is set so high because Harrison believes that lawyers who represent lawyers should hold even a higher standard for themselves than typical attorneys.

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