Around the Blawgosphere: Pruning Phony Web Client Reviews; What Does It Mean to Be a Virtual Lawyer?

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Spotting Fakes

At Small Firm Innovation, Washington, D.C., solo Carolyn Elefant notes a New York Times article about researchers at Cornell University who have developed an algorithm to distinguish fake reviews from real ones on websites like TripAdvisor. They ran the algorithm through 400 real hotel reviews and 400 hotels reviews they knew to be fake, and it worked 90 percent of the time.

Elefant thinks a “fake-review-detector” like this one would be a boon for lawyer review websites. Lawyers might be more inclined to participate in them, for one thing. “A detector wouldn’t eliminate accurate critiques, but prevent lawyers from being hurt by fakes,” Elefant wrote.

A solid review-detector might also ease concerns that some state bar associations have about client testimonials in advertising. “A review detector allows for a more narrowly tailored solution: state bars could require lawyers to register their websites and subject them to the fraud detector to red-flag testimonials that are restrictive or otherwise violate bar requirements.”

Does a Completely Virtual Practice Work?

Bankruptcy lawyer Jay Fleischman gives consultations and conducts meeting with staff from his home office Brooklyn, N.Y., and goes into his Manhattan office a few times a month. He writes at Legal Practice Pro that he could “live thousands of miles from [his] practice without losing traction.” But while he’s “untethered” and working mostly from home, he doesn’t consider himself to have a “virtual” law practice as he sees it defined. He doesn’t offer unbundled services, and he always meets his clients in person.

“Those who offer the virtual law firm are selling something most people don’t want,” Fleischman wrote. “People want to be able to make a personal connection with other people, to build trust in a lawyer’s expertise. They don’t want to be met with a password-encrypted firewall and triple-redundant backup systems.”

He uses technology as tools to allow him to practice how he does, but they don’t define his practice, he says. “it’s just that—a toolkit.”

‘Undertaker for the State of Texas’ Was Buck’s Lawyer

At the end of last week, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to delay the execution of Duane Edward Buck. During the sentencing phase of Buck’s 1997 double-murder trial, defense expert Walter Quijano testified that because Buck was black, there was a greater chance of “future dangerousness” on his part if he spent the rest of his life in prison, the Houston Chronicle reported.

At Simple Justice, New York City lawyer Scott Greenfield made a note of who Buck’s lawyer was: Jerry Guerinot, who has had 20 clients sentenced to death. A source in a 2007 Observer story called him an “undertaker for the state of Texas.” The New York Times reported last year that Guerinot had stopped taking capital cases.

Greenfield said he didn’t notice right away that Quijano—whose similar race testimony in five other capital cases prompted new sentencing hearings—was actually a defense witness, though Guerinot’s reputation offers an explanation of sorts for that. “Some think I’m less than kind to the brethren, disinclined to conceal bad things done by lawyers and shift all blame to the players in the system who are acceptable villains to criminal defense lawyers, my assumption here still reflects my bias, that no criminal defense lawyer can be that bad,” Greenfield wrote. “Indeed, they can.”

What’s Next for Daredevil?

At Abnormal Use, Greenville, S.C., lawyer Jim Dedman interviewed Mark Waid, who is the new writer of the Daredevil comic (he’s written the last four issues). Daredevil is the superhero alter ego of blind lawyer Mark Murdock, who practices at Murdock & Nelson with his partner, Foggy Nelson. At this point in the story, media reports have surfaced that Mark Murdock and Daredevil are one and the same, and it’s causing problems for Murdock. “Every time [Murdock] steps into the courtroom, a smart lawyer on the other side will invoke—especially in criminal cases, particularly criminal cases—the fact that Daredevil is an unsanctioned vigilante, and therefore, he must have some sort of antagonistic relationship with law enforcement or by nature must have some sort of antagonistic bent against authority.” Since Murdock / Daredevil has become such a distraction in the courtroom, he’s being forced to change his personal business model into one in which he helps pro se clients behind the scenes.

Waid also told Dedman that even though he feels “kind of squidgy” about it, he has to factor into what is now his comic that Murdock sued the newspaper who identified him as Daredevil—and won that lawsuit. “As a reader, that bugged me that a superhero and a lawyer would deliberately mount a false case even though it was all for a greater good. That he would sue the newspaper for telling the truth really bugged me. But those are the cards I was dealt.”

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