• September 26, 2018

SEO - Search engine optimizationUpdate (September 26, 2018): Here we go again. In the linked complaint, another law firm charges Findlaw with fraud, among other causes of action, for promised web-based marketing help that fell far short of the law firm’s expectations.

Minnesota Litigator has fielded off-line calls from lawyers dissatisfied with Findlaw’s services more than once (website design, SEO marketing services, internet attorney marketing services, and social media engagement services).

Too bad these lawyers and law firms did not find our posts through a google search BEFORE hiring Findlaw (let alone before suing it).

One has to wonder what kind of due diligence these lawyers and law firms did before committing big money for Findlaw’s SEO optimization, etc. (The Friday & Cox law firm claims to have paid nearly $300,000 and Findlaw counterclaims for an additional $36,000+.)

Did these lawyers and law firms require that Findlaw meet any concrete goals? Did they require any assurances or commitments at all as to any results of Findlaw’s work? Did they seek and obtain references or testimonials from other law firms that used the same products? Did they seek competitive bids?

If you’re curious about what distinguishes supposed “good” search engine optimization, take a look at Friday & Cox’s specific complaints about Findlaw’s work for the law firm (Complaint, Para. 16, a-v). (And ask yourself, as between Findlaw and the law firm, which is responsible for these alleged short-comings?)

Many lawyers are driven, smart, and accomplished in their field (that is, lawyering) but are bad business people. In our view, Findlaw is one of the best at exploiting this vulnerability.

Update (June 12, 2014): As described below, a law firm hired Findlaw to improve the law firm’s web presence but the law firm was extremely dissatisfied with Findlaw and the law firm sued Findlaw.

Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Richard H. Kyle Sr. (D. Minn.) dismissed five of Plaintiff’s six claims, dismissing claims for fraud, misrepresentation, deceptive trade practices, negligence, and breach of warranties this week. As for the law firm’s fraud claim against Findlaw, the court found that the law firm failed to plead Findlaw’s fraud with sufficient particularity. As for the law firm’s breach of warranty claims, the law firm failed to identify any express warranty and implied warranties, the court held, do not apply to contracts for services. They apply to contracts for goods, and this was not a contract for the sale of goods. Finally, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s negligence claim. Clearly Plaintiff’s claim here is more in the nature of a breach of contract business dispute rather than a negligence case.

The law firm, then, has to rest on its breach of contract claim. Who do you think wrote that contract? What limitations on damages do you think it has (along with all kinds of other “Findlaw friendly” provisions)? So, I suppose congratulations are in order to Findlaw and Winthrop & Weinstine lawyers, Tiffany Blofield and Craig Krummen who represent Findlaw in this case.

On the other hand, escaping legal liability does not always equal escaping harm. I expect that the lawsuit of law firm Ogletree, Abbott, Clay & Reed might have caused Findlaw some business reputation harm. It might continue to cause reputational harm. Maybe Ogletree will recover no money but maybe it will have done a service to other law firms by highlighting what sounds like a raw deal, at least based on the detailed allegations in the complaint.

Original post (February 11, 2014): If we credit the complaint of Texas law firm Ogletree, Abbott, Clay & Reed, LLC, recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, then FindLaw charged the Ogletree law firm more than $60,000 to take the law firm’s website’s quality DOWN several rungs.

I look forward to following this lawsuit. I believe that lawyers, like many other small business people, are preyed upon by internet/tech-related vendors who sell over-priced under-performing products to technologically unsophisticated, trusting, and vulnerable customers.

Findlaw, a Thomson Reuters company (successor to Westlaw and West Publishing), has decades-old established marketing inroads into lawyers’ offices and law firm spending. Its deep reach into the pockets of law firms, large and small, has not been a particularly good deal for lawyers for some time now. And shrinking businesses, as we all know, create a rich substrate for the propagation of overselling and underperforming.

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