because the world doesn't need any more self-professed experts
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March 2015
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  • Refuge for the Disbarred

    See this exchange (very tall JPEG) between Miami bar defense lawyer Brian Tannebaum and real estate lawyer real estate law specialist Real Estate Law & Investment Specialist, Broker & Social Media Consultant; Deal Closer & innovator real-estate-law-investments-loss-mitigation-and-social-media-consulting something Kathleen A. Scanlon.

    Brian’s target, it seems, pled guilty to mortgage fraud in state court in New York, and while awaiting sentencing and delinquent with the bar continued to “network” as a real estate lawyer on Twitter. When Brian inquired, she responded. There was some back-and-forth, and then she deleted her own replies to Brian and claimed not to have (“I don’t know why my replies are not showing up . . . what did I delete??? are you insane?” Then she changed her bio on Twitter—three times. (Tannebaum twitted, “I want to apologize to everyone for turning @kasesq94 into a “Social Media Consultant.”)

    I sympathize with Scanlon, trying to make the best of the very bad situation she’s gotten herself into. She may well have a partner and employees (if you believe her website, she has a staff of beautiful people in expensive suits) who are depending on her to make a smooth transition to what she calls her “hiatus,” and a family depending on her to bring food home during that break.

    I also understand the appeal of “Social Media Consultant.” It is a title that any idiot can give himself; it requires no sort of expertise whatsoever, and no equipment but a computer with an internet connection (which the former lawyer won’t be using to practice law). Barriers to entry in this specialty are very low. Scanlon will not be the first lawyer who, forced out of the practice of law, has redefined herself as a blog or other social media expert.

    In fact, it follows from the basic premise of online marketing—that, as self-proclaimed expert Adrianos Facchetti writes, “You are what Google says you are”—that by merely marketing yourself online as an expert you become an expert qualified to take people’s money to tell them how to become experts by marketing themselves online as experts. It’s turtles all the way down.

    So what’s wrong with that? If some naive lawyer, not having the first clue about online social media, wants to pay a convicted, disbarred, or otherwise disgraced ex-lawyer to show her the ropes, what harm is done?

    None, if the naif knows what she is getting and the consultant doesn’t lead her to do anything untoward or deceptive. But when the disgraced lawyer is deliberately concealing the fact that he is a disgraced lawyer, these questions are raised: is the naif getting what she thinks she is getting (or is she trusting someone whom she would not trust if the truth were revealed); and will the consultant, for whom deception has worked, teach the naif to be open and honest (or will he teach her what worked for him: concealment and deception)?

    I appreciate that it might be difficult for the social media expert to get hired if the world knows that he has been disbarred for raiding minors’ trust funds or convicted of mortgage fraud, and I believe strongly in redemption, but holding oneself out as something one is not seems to me an unlikely path to redemption.

    So what did disgraced lawyers do before there was such a thing as a social media consultant?