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Internet libel: Did a law firm defame a law school?

By Internet Lawyer

What do defamation laws do?

Defamation laws exist to discourage people from broadcasting false statements about others.

If a party makes false assertions about any aspect of your character, you have the right, under the defamation laws, to sue that party. Though intended to merely protect individuals’ reputations from falsification, defamation suits run into controversy due to their perception as limiting freedom of speech. In one recent example, debate exists on whether a New York law firm did in fact defame the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, located in Lansing, Michigan.

Why is the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law suing a New York law firm for defamation?

Cooley claims that the New York law firm Kurzon Strauss LLP defamed the school by asking students to join the law firm in a class action suit against the school. Pointing specifically to information about Cooley students defaulting on their loans, Kuzon Strauss asserted statistics about Cooley that the school claims are libelous and untrue. In order to maintain the reputation of the school, Cooley decided a defamation suit was necessary

In addition to the suit against Kurzon Strauss, the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law filed suit against four anonymous bloggers that the school claims have posted online comments detrimental to the school’s reputation. Cooley representatives claim that though free speech entitles everyone to their own opinions about the school, these particular online comments have crossed the line into defamation. The results of these suits could usher in new standards by which parties are able to recover in defamation suits for content posted over the internet.

What has happened to the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law as a result of its lawsuit?

Pursuant to Cooley’s suit, an attorney for Kurzon Strauss named David Anziska announced plans his business had for countersuing both the law school, and its lawyers. Anziska claimed that Cooley’s original suit seeks to intimidate his law firm, and that the grounds on which Cooley is suing are unfounded.

Given the relative newness of the internet, this controversy could answer questions about how much is too much in terms of freedom individuals have to post comments on the internet. Proponents of free speech might argue that the best remedy for false information posted over the internet would be for the school to have posted the correct information-not to sue Kurzon Strauss. Others might disagree, instead recognizing that preservation of reputation, even over the internet, demands that the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law win its defamation suit against Kurzon Strauss.

Website Attorney: How to get rid of time vampires

By Internet Lawyer

Website attorney time vampireAs a Website attorney and entrepreneur with a full plate of things to do from before sunrise until long after the sun sets each day, I installed a prospective client pre-screening device.

Anyone who cold calls my Internet law firm gets patched through by the receptionist to a voice mail that specifically instructs prospects to not leave a message but to use one of the law firm’s website contact forms instead.

Those who follow instructions get a quick response from one of my assistants.

The automatic failure is the prospect who ignores the instructions and leaves a message demanding that I call back. The amusing ones are those who acknowledge they understand the instructions but leave a message any way with a call-back demand as if they are somehow entitled to a response.

Let’s hope none of these non-prospects are holding their breath waiting for that call to happen. Not going to in this lifetime.

Is this mean? Who cares?

It is heartless to steal my irreplaceable time (and yours) – time that can be used instead to deliver quality products and services to those who value them.

What barriers have you set up in your business to disqualify poor prospects?

To your online success!

-Mike the Website attorney

P.S. You want respect as a freelancer? Get my Freelance Protector system.

Internet Attorney: How Much Does An Internet Law Firm Charge?

By Internet Lawyer

attorney-feesThe question isn’t how much an Internet attorney charges…it is, “How much money can an Internet lawyer save you?”

If seeking qualified legal counsel prevents just one lawsuit or government investigation, chances are you’ve made an excellent return on your investment.

When you do retain Internet legal counsel to represent your Web business, the attorney fees for professional services rendered will vary. For example, some projects take a little time. Others are complex and involve a lot of time.

Where the scope of work can be defined in advance, your Internet attorney may handle a particular legal project for a flat fee. If the work is going to take an unknown amount of time because it is ongoing or open-ended, you’re likely to be charged by the hour billed in 1/10 or 1/4 hour increments.

For flat fee Internet legal work, you’ll probably have to pay in advance. For hourly work, your Internet law firm may require a retainer to bill against. This type of prepayment is done to protect your lawyer’s interest and you in the process. Because practicing law is a business, your lawyer is going to want to be paid. The longer a law firm waits to collect (just like any business), the odds of receiving payment decreases exponentially.

Because of rules of professional conduct (and it is the right thing to do), your Internet attorney will explain billing practices and procedures at the beginning of your relationship.

Trademark Infringement: Do Website References and External Links Violate Intellectual Property Law?

By Internet Lawyer

not jones day lawyersMega law firm Jones Day reinforces prior statements that have been made about business attorneys who decide to wade into Internet law. Jones Day is allegedly suing website owners for trademark infringement because the site referred to the law firm without obtain permission and externally linked to the business’s website.

This is different than another recent case where a law firm sued a competitor for trademark infringement. In the Jones Day case, the defendant is not a competitor – the business apparently just doesn’t like the context in which it has been referred to on the site, i.e. the defendant posted information about condominiums purchased by two Jones Day lawyers.

While you can never Read More

Are Large Law Firms Headed For Extinction?

By Internet Lawyer

The Dallas legal community has been rocked by downsizing and dissolution at large law firms that hired some of the best and brightest law school graduates. One can only imagine the stress these unemployed attorneys are finding themselves in trying to support a high income lifestyle ($500K+ mortgages, leased luxury autos, private school for the kids, and student loans to repay). It is a recipe for foreclosure, heart attacks, and divorce.

Even the most successful marketing plan will take time to earn the type of income previously made at the big businesss.

On the macro scale, you have to wonder if this is a sign of things to come.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, clients of mega-businesss yelled “enough.” No more $1 photocopies, no more billing 36 hours a day, no more first class air travel for a partner and a gaggle of associates to take a deposition of a bit player in litigation. Clients told businesss to run their operations like a business. There were improvements, or at least the curtailing of the flagrant billing abuses.

Yet even the most blue chip business remains vulnerable to extinction.

Here’s why.

1. Clients no longer consider the practice of law to be a profession. Like real estate, insurance, banking (and soon to be medicine), attorneys are perceived by many as tradesmen instead of professionals.

2. Technology makes many clients less dependent on lawyers. Most legal forms are readily available on the Internet. Using informal cost-benefit analysis, businesses and individuals are taking the calculated risk of handling their own legal transactions with the expectation that they’ll never end up in court if things go south.

3. Competition is driving down the price of legal services. On the domestic front, there are attorneys who prefer to work-at-home while raising children and take part-time legal work to supplement their income. The full-time attorney cannot compete with the voluntary part-timer when it comes to rates (service is another matter). Foreign attorneys and paralegals are providing cheap legal services from places like India and the Philippines to U.S. law firms for a fraction of the cost it takes to employ a first-year associate lawyer at a big business.

Does this mean that large law firms will cease to exist?

No.

But it does mean that there will be fewer mega-businesss.

Small and medium-size businesss can provide clients with comparable or superior service for less money because the cost of doing business is less.
The remaining large businesss will continue to enjoy their billables to corporate giants and the benefits of their crispy critter personal injury cases.

However, the 99.5%+ lawyers who work elsewhere will be the standard by which the practice of law is measured.

Hat tip to the Dallas Morning News.