Letters to the Editor

The Value of Strategic Counsel


Regarding “We the Pauper,” May: It is not only private online providers that pose a problem. Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website makes it appear very easy to file your own application for a trademark. It is even posting a video that purports to assist filers by explaining the typical mistakes that are made in applications.

What it does not do is advise clients that sometimes it is strategically not smart to file an application. Nor does it advise the client regarding the necessity and cost of defending an application. I had a client with an online service website and a secure URL. She decided it would be easy to file an application to register her mark. A trademark “bully” with a weak mark decided to oppose every filing that even remotely resembled the bully’s mark.

Had this client not come to us for advice and counsel when she received a cease-and-desist letter, she would have certainly lost the right to continue to use her URL, which would have effectively shut down her business. Had she never filed an application, she would not have been targeted.

By way of full disclosure, I direct an organization that provides these services pro bono. We accepted this matter because we were so incensed at the conduct of the bully and the client had so much to lose if the matter was not handled properly. The point is that laypeople do not understand the nuances of trademark law, and our own governmental agency does not do those people a service by making it appear easy to do it themselves.

Barbara B. Bressler
Glenview, Ill.


I remember a quote from my wills and trusts text: “Bless all those who blot and scribble.” They create a lot of lucrative work for us later!

I have a do-it-yourself quitclaim deed in a client’s file. The husband conveyed the house to himself and his wife, and the deed was witnessed by … the wife! The notary didn’t notice (not his job, after all). Then there was the client whose father had done his own will. It was “legal” of course—it had been witnessed by four people (New York only requires two); it didn’t properly exclude a child, who was a lawyer, who sued and cost four years in legal fees and hundreds of thousands of dollars of the estate’s assets.

Nobody “thinks like a lawyer”—unless they are one. I love it when clients bring in this stuff. It always takes many billable hours to fix—if we can.

Judith D. Rawcliffe
Harrison, N.Y.


AVERT YOUR EYES

About “Bad Blogs?” May: As a sole practitioner I can’t afford a subscription to Lexis or Westlaw. FindLaw sends me daily info about cases in my field of interest (health law), and cases from several federal circuits as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, New York Court of Appeals and Florida Supreme Court. I get Casemaker with my membership in the Connecticut Bar Association. Without these resources I couldn’t function.

The blogs rarely provide anything useful, so I ignore them. But by and large, FindLaw is a fantastic resource for an attorney who can’t afford to pay the big bucks. If you don’t like getting the blogs, unsubscribe and stop complaining.

Joyce Krutick Craig
Torrington, Conn.


It’s not exactly a huge secret that since the Thomson-West acquisition a decade ago, FindLaw has had two reasons for existence: 1. Providing just enough case law to keep other free sites from getting off the ground, while at the same time frustrating real users into eventually paying for Westlaw. 2. Shilling lawyers in their paid directory.

Anyone with a clue is going to immediately notice that this isn’t the Harvard Law Review. People who don’t have a clue—i.e., some schmo who just got a DUI and is Googling for a lawyer, would otherwise be picking someone at random from the Yellow Pages. If there’s anything here egregious enough to require intervention, it would be in the form of a state bar enforcing its ethics in advertising rules.

Steve Perkins
Atlanta


DEFENDING JOEL HARDIN

Regarding “He Tries Men’s Soles,” May: it is unsettling that in a periodical written to inform practicing attorneys you would speculate about possible testimony in an upcoming murder trial without deigning to contact the attorneys you identify as presenters of that testimony. I can only conclude you took your speculation solely from information provided to you by the defense team or their colleagues. Just as a healthy skepticism of Joel Hardin’s expertise might, as with any other expert, be justified, skepticism of the assertions made by the criminal defense attorneys quoted in this article would also be warranted—particularly those who represent clients whose cases are not yet final.

Unsurprisingly, given your methodology, you got it wrong. The state called Hardin in its case-in-chief to testify solely about matters well within his area of expertise. In fact, the defense expert witness, retired FBI agent William Bodziak, did not disagree with the key observations for which the state offered Hardin’s testimony. Also, regarding that healthy skepticism I suggested above, it might be worth noting that during the trial Bodziak claimed expertise not only in footwear impression analysis but also in frosting analysis (based on conversations with bakers) and shoe submersion analysis (based on a few experiments he conducted in his pool).

I cannot comment on the accuracy of the rest of your article since I have no personal knowledge about the matters therein. However, given your lack of diligence and interest in obtaining accurate information about the Joel Zellmer case, I think your readers might want to seek other sources of information before drawing any final conclusion.

On April 28, Zellmer was convicted of the intentional murder of his 3½-year-old stepdaughter, Ashley McLellan, after a two-month trial in King County Superior Court. The 12-member jury also unanimously found that Ashley was a vulnerable victim. One final note: The foreperson of this very conscientious panel of jurors was a very well-regarded, semiretired litigation attorney.

Marilyn B. Brenneman
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
King County, Wash.


MORE ON LAW APPS

Regarding “Bar Exam? There’s an App for That,” May: For other apps that might be of interest, please visit the UCLA School of Law LibGuide “Mobile Applications for Law Students and Lawyers” at libguides.law.ucla.edu/mobilelegalapps.

Feedback and suggestions for additional apps are always welcome.

Vicki Steiner
Los Angeles

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