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Increase in Use of Blogs as Marketing Tools

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In an update on a blogworthy news story from a few weeks ago, the judge in the Google case is forcing the company to hand over search-query records to the U.S. government, but the government has announced a compromise, requesting less data from Google. Rick Georges at Futurelawyer asks if giving up a little privacy is like being a little pregnant.

Last week's developments in the blogtastic Zacarias Moussaoui case gave law bloggers a lot to ponder. The prosecution botched its death-penalty case against alleged 9/11 co-conspirator Moussaoui by inappropriately coaching witnesses, including emailing a witness transcripts of the opening statements and other witnesses' testimonies. This caused the government to basically forfeit the death penalty for Moussaoui and may result in jail time for a TSA attorney. My favorite analysis of this prickly issue came from David Zarang at Concurring Opinions. Zarang has sympathy for the TSA attorney, saying she was just trying to keep her witnesses informed. Other bloggers disagreed, but few could muster much sympathy for Moussaoui himself, who has turned his trial into a circus by repeatedly, and loudly, declaring his loyalty to Osama bin Laden in the courtroom.



In the past few years, corporations have begun to exploit blogs for their potential as marketing tools. Given their low cost of maintenance, blogs would seem to be ideal for the business world. Many companies, however, have shied away from the blogosphere, fearing the uncensored diatribes of bloggers. According to Socialtext, only 24 Fortune 500 companies are currently blogging. Denise Howell penned a convincing argument in support of corporate blogging on Between Lawyers. She argues that corporate blogophobia is virtually baseless. While bosses fear a public airing of grievances on blogs and the legal risks associated with confidential information being dispersed on the Internet, Howell asserts that interoffice gossip is the greater danger. Bloggers are aware that their forum is public and tailor their posts accordingly. If bosses establish the necessary blogging protocol, there is little to fear. In private, however, employees feel freer to bash the company or give out corporate secrets. Ten or fifteen years ago, the use of corporate email was limited compared to today. Now, it is recognized as an indispensable business tool. Though there are always risks that go with enabling easy and free communication, Howell puts corporate blogging low on the list of threats to the corporate world.

Speaking of harmless activities, a few weeks ago, a news item about Nevada attorney Glen Lerner was passed around the blogosphere. Poor Glen's law practice was dealt a blow by the State Bar of Nevada when it ruled that his ads were false and misleading. While monitoring attorneys for inappropriate advertising is an important function of state bars, this case seems a little extreme. Ben Cowgill's blog, Ben Cowgill on Legal Ethics, offered a thorough editorial analysis of the matter. Lerner's Las Vegas-based TV ads boasted that he was "the Heavy Hitter." The Nevada Bar decided that this was misleading because Lerner is not the only Heavy Hitter in Nevada. Presumably, Lerner would be allowed to advertise himself as "a Heavy Hitter" or "one of many Heavy Hitters in the area." Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle points out that this is not the first time Lerner has run afoul with the State Bar of Nevada. He previously got into trouble over a TV ad where a novelty oversized telephone falls on a person. The Bar feared that this could create anxiety relating to novelty oversized telephones. Lerner claims to be challenging the Bar's recent ruling. Another interesting development in the story involves a seemingly unrelated ad for a Kentucky attorney who not only calls himself "the Heavy Hitter," but uses the exact same logo as Lerner. Kentuckian Cowgill raises several interesting questions about this conundrum here.

Another ridiculous item from last week comes to us from an unlikely source: bankruptcy court. San Antonio bankruptcy judge Leif Clark saw fit to cite the classic Adam Sandler film Billy Madison in response to a defendant's motion. The Bankruptcy Litigation Blog posted the judge's text, which seems better suited for the case Dean Wormer v. Animal House. Reproduced below is the relevant text.
"Before the court is a motion entitled 'Defendant's Motion to Discharge Response to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Response Opposing Objection to Discharge.' As background, this adversary was commenced on December 14, 2005, with the filing of the plaintiff's complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge. Defendant answered the complaint on January 12, 2006. Plaintiff responded to the Defendant's answer on January 26, 2006. On February 3, 2006, Defendant filed the above entitled motion. The court cannot determine the substance, if any, of the Defendant's legal argument, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting. The Defendant's motion is accordingly denied for being incomprehensible."

Or, in the words of the competition judge to Adam Sandler's character of the same name in the movie Billy Madison, after Billy Madison had responded to a question with an answer that sounded superficially reasonable, but lacked any substance:

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Deciphering motions like the one presented here wastes valuable chamber staff time and invites this sort of footnote.

It defies plausibility, but it does show that bankruptcy judges have a better sense of humor than we all imagined. Next week, the judge in the Enron case will reveal his favorite quotes from Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach. Be there!

Jeff is a writer from Los Angeles, CA. Currently, he is the moderator of the message boards at Judged.com, the largest insider source of law firm information.

State Bar of Nevada

    


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