Friday, December 11, 2015

Jimmy Davis nominated as one of "10 best" Attorneys in Florida - and why this does not matter.

Imagine my surprise, and the amount of ego inflating pride I felt when I got this letter in the mail that states "Congratulations! We are pleased to announce that you have been nominated as one of the '10 Best' Attorneys for Florida. This came from an organization called the "American Institute of Family Law Attorneys".

I blushed with pride, and smiled ear to ear. I said to everybody near my P.O. Box, "Look, I'm the best attorney ever!" (I did not really do that, but you know...)

Here is the instantaneous problem with this reward. I have barely dabbled in family law. My results have been good by all accounts, but one of the 10 best? I think not. This, my curious readers, is what one calls a "vanity award". Should I pay for this award, I will instantly go from nominated to winner. Congratulations me!
Oh Vanity Award, your name is Narcissus
As a consumer of legal services, or an attorney, it should be pretty clear why these pseudo awards should not be utilized by attorneys to promote their skills. Similar to paying for a noble title, paying for an award is not only a hollow victory, but it may very well show how unethical attorney marketing may be. Consider in Florida

Rules 4-7.13(a)(2), (b)(2), (b)(3) and Rules 4-7.14(a)(2)

If an attorney were to use this on advertising material, these rules require that attorney to determine whether the advertisement contains any reference to past results that cannot be objectively verifiable; whether it omits material information; or if "literally accurate" would it have the potential to mislead a would-be client regarding a material fact.

In this case, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. Sure my past results are good, but they are normal outcomes to normal cases. I have had children returned from other states, successfully defended clients from false accusations, and resolved other more "cookie cutter" cases. There is information material to any selection of the top ten, including how much experience and the complexity of the cases undertaken and won. Finally, it is "literally accurate" that I was "nominated" as one of the top 10, but in light of everything else... would it not be reasonable that a person seeing that "award" get misled as to my abilities and reputation in the courts? Of course.

I shredded the award

What what?!? But... no, if I ever become one of the "top 10" in Florida I would rather earn it, not pay for it. In fact, I have earned

  • The Guardian of Justice from Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.; 
  • The President's Volunteer Service Award from President Obama;
  • The Volunteer of the Year Award from United Way;
  • The Pro Bono Service Award by the Florida Bar President;
  • The Volusia County Pro Bono Attorney of the Year from Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.; and
  • The One Pro Bono Award from The Florida Supreme Court, Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, and the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association.
How much did I pay for these? Exactly $0.00, exactly as it should be.

Great, so how do I know whether my attorney's awards are earned or paid?

Look them up. Others are writing about these "vanity awards". My nomination came from American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. I believe they are simply in the business of making money from my Profession, and that those in my profession using their "award" to market themselves are misleading consumers of legal services.

I use my real awards to market myself to be sure. But if you are in the market for an attorney, beware the hype. Find out which awards are real and which are purchased filler for websites.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pro Bono Work - Advocating for the Underserved

"I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone's cause for lucre or malice." _ The Florida Oath of Attorney

The other day I was criticized for fighting for a client's money. That money was, relative to the paychecks of the people in the room, small. But for some of my clients the amount in dispute was enormous. These clients, when in court for either criminal or civil issues, walk away feeling marginalized and set aside as unimportant because "the amount in dispute is not worth the court's time." 

"The courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay." _ Art. I, s. xxi, Fla. Const.

How the dollar value of the case means anything to any real sense of justice escapes me. Justice denied to a person simply because they are poor is like a cancer. It grows malignantly through the attitudes of the economic class that was targeted as unworthy who begin looking at the justice system as a weapon for those of means. Worse, it will metastasize into the atmosphere of the courts because once a court rejects a litigant because of their income, it becomes easier to do the same in the future.

Justice is not about the money. It is about the framework of the law and how it should be applied in all cases, no matter the economic situation of those involved. We in the Profession should be wary of allowing the courts to marginalize the poor without a fight. The consequences are dire, because there is always somebody out there who thinks our client is poor.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Board of Governors of The Florida Bar from the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Seat 1

When this opening was announced I was emailed and asked to run for the position. The nominating form had some great attorneys on it. They were dedicated to their clients; they spent time consulting the poor in legal matters; and they contributed to the community and the Profession in ways I could not possibly detail here. These are attorneys I frequently look up to so being nominated by them made it very difficult to refuse.

Pro Bono Service - Recently I was privileged to travel to Tallahassee and stand before our Supreme Court along with a cohort of fellow pro bono volunteer attorneys who have directly confronted the problem of accessibility to legal representation. Too often, pro se litigants with legitimate legal issues are denied a chance at justice and attorneys who volunteer cannot save everybody. I believe that some parts of this problem can be tackled using education and technology, and that the Profession should be experimenting with solutions that could resolve simpler matters as swiftly as possible.

Technology & the Law - Because of my background in engineering and science, I want to explore how technology can be used to pull the Profession into the 21st century. Creating a more efficient court system with technologically armed attorneys representing their clients would streamline the courts and allow all of us to concentrate more on what matters to us and those we represent. I want to contribute to this evolution of legal services.

Helping Others - Finally, there are many other issues facing the Florida Bar besides these two and they certainly have equally dedicated champions. Anemic court funding, poorly compensated government attorneys, increased support for legal aid firms, soft cover books which hurt less when the judge tosses the book at you, and mentorship opportunities for attorneys are some examples of the problems I would be looking forward to addressing with other board members.

I do not have all the answers, nor will I pretend to. These are difficult problems before us and no one attorney will solve any one of them. But I would be happy to take part in finding the solutions and it would be an honor to represent you on the Board of Governors. So remember to vote and let's tackle these problems together.