Pennsylvania To Introduce Anti-SLAPP Laws

September 14, 2013

I have good news – Senator Larry Farnese has introduced a bill to protect civic associations and other individuals discussing issues of public importance, who are then named in a frivolous lawsuit (“strategic lawsuit against public participation” or “SLAPP”).

Anti-SLAPP laws are vitally important here in Philadelphia, as public participation is written into the Philadelphia Code. Under the law, anyone seeking a zoning variance or Special Assembly Occupancy License must first meet with the local civic association.

However, a chilling trend is emerging. When an applicant doesn’t like what the community has to say, they will file a frivolous lawsuit against the neighbors, bloggers, and the civic association. Defending these lawsuits are expensive for anyone on the wrong end of one, even if they are completely frivolous. SLAPP suits have gotten so out of control that the Old City Civic Association disbanded because it could not procure insurance for its directors and officers due to defending frivolous SLAPP suits. Under current Pennsylvania law, the victim of a SLAPP suit has little recourse against a vexatious plaintiff. Anti-SLAPP laws will punish those who choose to file frivolous lawsuits to curb free speech and public participation.

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania, I urge you to sign this petition and let the legislature know this is an important issue.


When You Are What Google Says You Are

September 4, 2013
On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Last week I learned that my friend Charlie Thomas was throwing in the towel after 11 years of practice. Charlie was my co-counsel in the Bellwether Trial, and I can say from first hand experience that he is a good lawyer (not just “We chat on Twitter, so I say nice things about him.”) Charlie also has a great sense of humor, and often offers “free legal advice” that include tidbits like “Don’t steal stuff” or “Don’t show up to court high when you’re being brought up on drug charges.” His sardonic anecdotes of criminal law practice always make me laugh.

So why would a good, experienced trial lawyer like Charlie get out of practice? No clients, apparently. Despite what you may have read on Solo Practice University, solo practice is hard. Real hard. Not everyone makes it. There are only so many paying clients, and lawyers to serve them.

But why would someone as good as Charlie not have any clients? He explained:

Most of that reflection was focused on fixing the marketing problem. All my eggs were in a single basket — and not one that I owned myself. When Google changed their algorithm and sent me off the first page and down to page four, my phone stopped ringing.

This is one of the reason bloggers like Greenfield and Tannebaum advise against a “Google-based” reputation, and instead suggest lawyers focus on developing  competence, strong relationships with real people, and a reputation for excellence among your peers.

Despite what you may have heard on the internet, the future of law isn’t manufacturing a Google based reputation, and it never will be. Because if your reputation is based on Google, you are what Google says you are. And if Google says you’re on page four, apparently you’re nobody. Even if you’re a good, experienced trial lawyer.