To begin with, arguing contracts or fraud in the inducement with a FindLaw attorney marketing or “ads” supervisor is not what I signed up for. For example, when someone EXPRESSLY promises me to do something in order to get the sale, I EXPECT it to get done. Simple.
Conversely, it appears as if the entire staff at FindLaw thinks that no duty of good faith and fair dealings exist when the time comes to honor their promises. Why is that?
It appears FL employees are trained to rely on their so-called “Master Services Agreement” to shield them from honoring promises and inducements you relied upon in making their decision to contract.
I will explain more as we progress.
But first, I will prove that even FindLaw’s own corporate “trust” policies militate in favor of them keeping their EXPRESS and EASY to HONOR promises to their customers.
Can a Written Disclaimer VOID a Promise Rely Upon?
Not usually. Of special interest here, even under contract law, disclaimer language in a Master Services Agreement cannot void FindLaw’s (or anyone’s) written, verbal or oral promises. This is called LAW SCHOOL 101.
So imagine dealing with a non-attorney salesperson over at FindLaw after you saw the facts showed you had been lied to and deceived by ad reps. Rather than FindLaw apologize, you hear them basically say nothing.
Visualize yourself having been instructed by a FindLaw supervisor that her “Master Services Agreement” shields her from honoring her agent’s solemn EXPRESS promises. And then think about that for a minute.
FindLaw’s CEO agrees with me that not keeping promises is unfair and that it fosters distrust. Based upon his statements to the public and stockholders, you’d think FindLaw ads would honor any reasonable commitment they made their clients as a matter of public TRUST.
“can you please switch out my website link on a product I pay for? It is no longer accurate, as the web address has changed.”
“FindLaw hosts and manages my Firmsite’s SSL certificate, yet you disabled my https Certification and the site is now insecure. My site has now lost ranking because Google tells people who land on it that it is NOT A SECURE site. When are you going to fix it?”
What if your rep said?:
- Yes, no problem, Mike. We’ll fix it when you renew. (What if it was not fixed?)
- What if your rep and his supervisor swore up and down in emails that your web URL in Example o1 was fixed?
- But it wasn’t fixed, so you complained? Now what?
- What if the new supervisor assigned to your account says: “No, we can’t make your listing accurate anymore because this was a ‘side deal.'”
- What if you went over the supervisor’s head to her boss? What if he simply ignored you and relied upon her position that FL doesn’t have to do sh*t? What if he failed to return your calls or respond to your emails?
Remember, you were promised orally, by acts in furtherance, and in emails! Afterward, your rep and the supervisor told you it had been fixed.
Now imagine having your FL ads Firm name being changed from “Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC, ” to “Mike Ehline.” Then imagine the FL supervisor blame you and tell you that you have to fill out some special form, when prior to renewing your name was accurate.
So you are now paying someone thousands of dollars a month to destroy your brand, making your information inaccurate.
Now you are forced to blog about it, so others can see what you are dealing with. Just imagine your URL is still wrong on your listing; your firm name was changed without your permission. Your rep’s supervisor treats you with contempt.
And to top it off, she makes snide, patronizing comments. So basically, she just declared war on you. And her boss is so spineless he won’t even reply to calls or emails.
So What if FindLaw Made Your Accurate Data Inaccurate and Blamed it on You?
As discussed above, not only did FindLaw not fix the inaccurate URL or update my SSL cert, they actually made my data inaccurate and tried to blame me!
I paid to add a Long Beach truck accident ad to my profile. And true to form, FindLaw changed my once accurate Long Beach listing from our firm name, “Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC,” to my short FindLaw account billing name, “Mike Ehline.”
FindLaw implied this is my fault. “Read the ‘Master Services Agreement.'” Plus, its agents refuse to CHANGE IT BACK TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE renewing. And this is something you have always been able to do before complaining.
Would you say these people have zero integrity? Could you trust anyone like that? Would you want to speak to a higher-up?
Here’s what Jim Smith, CEO of FindLaw, Says about trust:
“Our business depends on transparency and our determination to do the right thing. Our customers count on the accuracy of our information, the reliability of our systems, and the:
- “integrity with which we operate.”
- “Trust is our currency.” [Emphasis.]
One thing I do agree on is that FindLaw is transparent and determined not to honor the many promises it has made me over the years. And I think this shows an utter lack of integrity and contempt.
Over the years, I have spent hundreds of hours trying to defend my business and brand from FindLaw representative edits. I have to educate each new account rep as to my account history, since there are different circumstances where you can need a lawyer like criminal persecution and DUI, and still using resources as a dui lawyer can help dealing with this situations.
They make their usual promises. And when I complain, they turn it over to someone less intelligent than them. These are usually people who are hostile and argumentative. I believe reps make false promises because their supervisors are trained to tell clients the Master Services Agreement means any promise they don’t keep is YOUR FAULT.
For years, almost without fail, a new FL hire will try to alter or delete my accurate information, making it inaccurate. Also, when confronted, the reps would gaslight me. So I have to go all the way to the president, spend thousands of dollars of my attorney time to keep FL from changing the deal.
Why Not Just Cancel and Move On?
So why not just cancel and leave FindLaw? Why do you ask? Because the products are amazing. But alas, I can see how any educated, self-motivated, or ambitious employee would potentially be a threat to a supervisor there.
My experience with most of their supervisors has demonstrated that they know very little about BUSINESS, let alone their products or the internet. Also, most of the leadership I have dealt with has zero commitment to the client’s needs.
Based upon my conversations with my MANY MANY MANY past sales reps, this appears to be the sole reason for the high turnover rate. BAD LEADERSHIP. Sadly, it appears that FindLaw promotes based upon other factors than consumer happiness, heavy product, and industry knowledge.
If I made a FindLaw Comedy Play, there would be a famous line from the Supervisor character:
“I don’t care what deal you have in place now or what promises the last ten sales reps and corporate officers made you! Our Master Services Agreement Insulates Us From Honoring them.” – A scene from the future FindLaw Comedy Play.
We hear and have formed the same opinions. We think that FindLaw attorney advertising has excellent products. But we believe they have equally horrific leadership. Last, I am of the strong belief that many of its reps lack accountability when dealing with their attorney clients.
Their reputation with many of our friends who have also challenged them is the same as ours. It seems like anything they do wrong immediately gets blamed on the client. But more often than not, it gets nonchalantly breezed over.
Next, it seems everyone in their corporate chain of command toes the line against the complaining customer.
Do FindLaw Marketing Services Reps Also Double as Defense Attorneys for FindLaw?
I am not sure, but it appears that FindLaw hires a lot of law school grads who like to play lawyer and argue the law with people who practice law for a living.
My last conversation with a fictional supervisor. Ms. “Haaas” was telling in my matter. So she tried to argue contract law with me. Here she is refusing to listen to statements from my previous FindLaw sales rep. Yes, that would easily verify my account status and the promises that were actually in place until she, or her cohorts interfered and voided them unilaterally.
Here is a hypothetical example in our play of what a FindLaw Marketing attorney-client might experience with a supervisor.
The comedy play we write about FindLaw would include lines like this:
“Clearly, that client is crazy, our Master Services Agreement means we don’t have to honor any of our promises or exercise common sense.”
“But you and your rep said …..”
“Sorry you FEEL that way.” (While evading culpability, the supervisor may blame you for their failure to follow their own company policies on Page 55, for example. Thomson Reuters Code of Conduct.)
FindLaw Supervisors could say, “hey, those were”:
- Unauthorized “side” letters. “Unauthorized side letters are undisclosed, unapproved letters, emails, notes or verbal agreements that vary standard contract terms. They may bind us to something we cannot deliver or expose us to unwanted liability.
They can include:
Early outs, or the ability for the customer to terminate before the contract expires
Guarantees that the customer will achieve certain milestones
Statements that directly contradict parts of the contract, notably payment terms
Commitments for products or services Thomson Reuters is unable or unwilling to provide or perform
Offers of free or discounted products or services
In other words, FindLaw admits that these varying verbal, emails, or letters are, in many cases, valid and binding terms. Yet their marketing department supervisors seem to AUTOMATICALLY VOID, ignore, or obfuscate THEM.
And they seem to be highly trained and skilled at using the Master Services Agreement as an excuse or ploy to allow them to ignore this internal FindLaw policy of honoring many of them. And my so-called side deal had been in place for years until I asked them to correct inaccurate data. (See below)
Are they not violating their internal policies by acknowledging that, in many cases, these are valid promises or “side letters”?
BLAME THE CUSTOMER. Enter FINDLAW FIRM SITES.
One typical example of a different term than their form contract spells out has to do with the website URL that FindLaw displays in your marketing ads. It has long been the case that FindLaw has required an attorney to buy a FL Firm site if they want to advertise their Non-FindLaw website on FindLaw’s paid search products. So this would include products such as an Attorney Spotlite listing.
Many lawyers wished to keep their websites for advertising purposes, primarily because WordPress is much easier to use. But others have faster, pure HTML sites and don’t want people less educated at FindLaw controlling their firm’s main marketing tool, their website.
And either type of platform (WordPress or HTML) is FAR more user-friendly than FindLaw’s clunky Firmsites. In my case they even let my Firm site SSL Cert expire, and NO ONE HAS even apologized.
It’s STILL EXPIRED!!!!
In fact, Ms. Haas asked me: “did you know your SSL cert is expired?”
And I was like, duh, “it’s a Firmsite, you need to fix it!!” She didn’t even know it was HER company’s product. This is what you are forced to deal with at FindLaw.
So to this day, many existing attorney advertisers own a Firmsite. But they use them as a static blog. In exchange, FindLaw places the attorney’s privately served websites in the link on those specific advertising sections like Top Spots or Spotlite Listings.
But What if FindLaw Made Your Firmsite Insecure by Voiding The SSL?
Discussed above, it happened to me. And my account supervisor infers it’s my fault. Mind you; this is a website hosted by FindLaw. http://www.militarymotorcycleattorneys.com/
The High Turnover Problem?
Unfortunately, FindLaw has such an extremely high turnover rate, that no one seems to know the true status of client accounts. Nor are accurate notes kept explaining to the next employee your account status.
- So a new hire rep or tech would try and later strip out your firm’s web site’s link, and replace it with the Firmsite you were forced to buy so you could advertise your real website on your ads. (NO JOKE)
They would argue that your real site is not a Firmsite built by FindLaw.
- They assume the link to your true website was placed in the Firmsite link area on the ads by “mistake.”
- And when you clarify that FindLaw does this with many clients, “why are you singling me out?”, they say “it’s a side deal, do you “want to cancel?”
So imagine that this would happen every few years. And many of us had to hunt down our old reps so they could explain FindLaw’s addendum and arrangements to the new FL supervisors.
- In response, their PRESIDENT told many of us that our non Firmsite Ad accounts were “grandfathered.”
Despite emails and history of these so-called “Side Letters,” being active and HONORED with certain users, the entire thing is arbitrary and appears to be based upon the ego of the newest FindLaw supervisor.
The Old Improper Side Deal Argument?
The problem is even the higher-ups, seem to be car salesman material with little knowledge of legal or internet marketing. Even though you tell your rep, and you have an existing agreement in place, rather than upgrade your current account, your rep may sneakily try and get you to sign a new contract. Maybe he tells you it’s an upgrade.
What they are likely doing, in my opinion, is getting you to invalidate (in their mind) your existing agreement by making you agree to a new master services agreement. After all, FindLaw reps are always encouraged to reach out to FindLaw’s corporate attorneys whenever they have an issue where, for example, a client expects FindLaw to keep promises made by its agents.
So in effect, they are securing a new contract. Basically, they just got you to agree to a new Master Services Agreement. Now later, as with me, your rep or supervisor may say your old arrangement is an “improper side deal.” But now, they will not let you make changes to update your website link, etc.
They may not even let you edit your ads or locations from your user profile. And they may even demand you fill out papers before they will change it themselves. It’s all very petty.
But then she might try and patronize you, waving her freshly signed new Master Services agreement around. She may do so gleefully as if it was a presidential pardon to engage in unfair and PETTY tactics.
Do a Lot of Current FindLaw Advertisers Keep Their “Side Letter” Agreements in Place While Others Arbitrarily Lose Theirs?
Interestingly, if you search FindLaw’s current attorney advertisers and run their landing page websites through who.is, you will rapidly see that many lawyers are using non-FindLaw site links when they advertise on FindLaw ads. That means they do not display a FIRMSITE in their ads. And some lawyers have done so for many years.
This pattern, practice, and custom by the FindLaw of honoring these so-called “Side Letters” is based upon common sense. But this intangible quality seems not to be instilled in their sales staff. And this opinion is based upon ad reps and supervisors arguing their case on behalf of FindLaw and not defending you or upholding their end.
These “Side Letters” are Binding Contractual Terms and in No Way Subsumed By the “Master Services Agreement”
Applying contracts in a way that harms some FindLaw attorney advertisers, and unfairly helps others is wrong. It also goes against FindLaw’s own Trust Rules above. Someone is being unjustly enriched, and it’s not me!
After all, these side letters [especially once they have been in effect for years] are a binding term to honor for these FindLaw and other advertisers. And this can be based upon implication, spoken word, conduct, habit, express terms, and custom, and more. Most of all, it remains a matter of honor. So it remains a matter of “trust.”
And this is not just what they teach you in law school; it is also according to FindLaw’s own employee trust rules. It may be a side letter. But it is NOT improper. Also, it is not SUBSUMED by a Master Services Agreement.
This kind of tactic in using this Master Services Agreement disclaimer as a tool to invalidate an agent’s promises, if provable, is unlawful. Also, it remains violative of FindLaw’s own internal published employee policies. And to me, it is cowardly and despicable.
Did FindLaw Promise You Something and Later Say They Don’t Have to Anymore?
We are taking comments now. Has FindLaw promised to do or not do certain things to get your business or renewal? Did your rep or a higher up then renege and try to gaslight you? Maybe they told you to show them where it is in the written contract?
It appears that the standard approach used by FindLaw when reps get confronted by a client pointing out a broken promises to a gas-lit client.
Also, this approach, if proven, appears designed to obstruct and prevent the attorney-client from getting what FindLaw’s agents promised him or her. But at the same FindLaw gets paid its advertising money.
Here is a Great Line for Our FindLaw Ads Comedy Skit.
“tell them anything, get the contract, and then later when they are upset, explain it doesn’t matter what you told them. The Master Services agreement says we don’t have to honor anything you or our management told them,”
One could substitute this scene movie scene in the famous Tom Clancy Blockbuster, Clear and Present Danger. But imagine its a client chat with a FindLaw ads Supervisor and not the assistant Deputy Director of the CIA.
- Harrison Ford Plays the FindLaw Attorney Advertising Client.
- The CIA Guy in the Suit is the Shifty, Sneaky FindLaw Supervisor.
Notice the FindLaw agent whipping out a copy of the Master Services Agreement. “We don’t have to worry about anything; we are covered!” Muahahahahahahah!
It appears its parent company, Thomson Reuters, has a forum selection clause in its contract with you, the lawyer. Hence, you become forced to sue them for any breaches, misrepresentation, or fraud in Minnesota federal or state court.
Alas, this remains a state that offers far fewer consumer protections for victims of unfair business practices than say, California. So you may have given up, thinking the case isn’t big enough.
Check out the Draconian Terms in The Master Services Agreement.
“General Disclaimer. All warranties, conditions and other terms implied by statute or common law including, without limitation . . . are excluded to the maximum extent permitted by applicable laws. (such as a promise by a rep or a supervisor?), the Services are delivered “as is” without warranty of any kind. Thomson Reuters does not warrant or represent that the Services or that all Faults will be corrected. (What about when your rep promises you as an inducement to deal?). [Emphasis.]
Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any Damages …
Client assumes sole responsibility and entire risk …
Client is solely responsible for the preparation, content, accuracy, and review of any documents, data, or output prepared or resulting from the use of the Service. (Yet FindLaw may not let you update your user info?) (Read More here.) [Emphasis.]
But recent changes to consumer law in Minnesota could invalidate parts of the Master Services Agreement. Of particular concern, they can’t use a contractual term such as this as a subterfuge to ignore promises.
Usually, the more stringent Minnesota consumer protection laws don’t apply. So contracts between a consumer with advertising agencies, such as FindLaw, are generally not strictly scrutinized. But it looks like a great state to nestle your business if the owner wants to have the most sound insulation from honoring contracts. Or is it?
Are there Exceptions to Advertising Agency Exemptions from Consumer Protection?
YES! “….. if the owner, publisher, agent, or employee has either knowledge of the false, misleading or deceptive character of the advertisement or financial interest in the sale or distribution of the advertised merchandise.” (Subd. 3 of Section 325F.69 of Minnesota UNLAWFUL PRACTICES statute.)
- Does your FindLaw ads rep or supervisor know that FindLaw ads reps regularly make false promises to its attorney clients that it never intended to keep?
- Did your FindLaw ads supervisor attempt to retaliate against you in order obfuscate, delay or to take away services from you, or your job, but not take away services from similarly situated people or companies?
- Was a former FindLaw employee feel pressured to say whatever they had to to get the sale. But then you got fired? Or were you forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement when it didn’t work out for FindLaw?
- Are you aware of instances where FindLaw ads arbitrarily and capriciously discriminate against one attorney-client over another with the same type of contractual arrangement?
- Does your FindLaw Supervisor or Rep Call a Variance Between you and FindLaw an “Unauthorized” “Side Deal.” Does she claim their “Master Services Agreement subsumes it?”
- Does your FindLaw supervisor try and argue consumer law with you?
- Does she gloat over the superior position their “Master Services Agreement” has placed her in?
Also, forcing a California client to sue for things like deception and fraud in the inducement, in Minnesota is unfair. Hence, you may be able to void the FindLaw forum selection clause.
California’s Interest in Voiding Unfair Portions of Contracts
And this is because California has a vested interest in protecting its citizens. MOST IMPORTANT HERE, that interest lies in safeguarding residents from shady offshore businesses, assuming that is your case.
So yes, California can void parts of your contract and uphold amendments and inducements, as a matter of law. Perhaps it falls under California Business and Professions Code Sec 17200 et. seq? Maybe the company used some unfair tactics? Also, maybe their agents engaged in a pattern and practice of unfair business tactics.
Can Other Countries Hurt Us and Get Away With It?
Each state is a sovereign country. If another state allows a scheme that hurts us, our courts don’t like it. Foreign, out of state business cannot insult Californians.
Especially this is not allowed to secure contracts. And they are not excused from using bait and switch style techniques to lure residents of CA into unfair and dishonest arrangements.
Do You believe that FindLaw Ads Reps Consistently Engage in Any other Conduct Which Similarly Creates a Likelihood of Confusion or Misunderstanding?
So let’s see if this is widespread in the Golden State. Or maybe it’s just a few “bad apple,” “squeaky wheel,” FindLaw Firmsite or Knowledge-base customers complaining. Are you an attorney FindLaw client?
We want to hear from you. So let’s see if this is just a few people. But then again, maybe this is a severe problem in the way they run their attorney facing operations.
- As an inducement, your account rep promised to fix problems with your current ads if you would renew.
- Did they say the inaccurate information was fixed when it was not?
- Did FindLaw cancel a program like “Knowledge Base” and not tell you.
- Did they strip out all the articles and links you built to your website and valuable posts?
- Does your account rep even know what your account history or status is?
- Is your account rep familiar with basic internet advertising terminology? For example, what is SEO, HTML, SCHEMA, JAVA? Or what is a “301 redirect, or subdomain”?
- Are you arbitrarily denied services that other attorneys are still receiving? Did this happen after you complained to a supervisor at FindLaw about an offense against you?
(“Our Master Services Agreement means it doesn’t matter what you ‘feel’ we promised you. [patronizing statements in emails to you, for example] You want to cancel?”)
- Does the FindLaw supervisor assigned to “help” seem to be trying to act like a defense lawyer for FindLaw? Do you feel like they are not trying to honor FindLaw’s promises to you?
- Do they change their story the more you prove to the company that they are in the wrong by their action or inaction, or being unfair?
- Can your old account rep(s) verify under penalty of perjury as to any misrepresentations or unfair business dealings?
- For example, any past and present sales tactics or administrative refusals to honor promises?
- Were these false promises used to entice to procure sales/advertising contracts?
- Did FindLaw change or alter your accurate business name as listed on your current ads with them? Did they then try and blame you for switching out your accurate data?
- Are they refusing to allow you to make the profile listing changes yourself as you once did?
Why all the Red Tape?
Why all the red tape, and seeming environment of fear, uncertainty, and doubt within corporate? And why is it so hard to respect clients and not patronize them? Are you a past or present attorney advertiser or employee of FindLaw? Have you sued FindLaw ads and been successful?
Send us your story. That way, we can do a video cast with screenshots of emails and statements made by the company reps. If you are with the news media or press, you can email us directly on our online contact us form.
Look for us in future editions of the Los Angeles Daily Journal. So let’s try and figure out what’s up. Again, great product, but ineffective leadership. Let’s hear your opinions and comments.
I was promised a new ads rep to assist me with his case. It’s been weeks, and no one has responded to my many calls and emails to FindLaw corporate.
NOTE: To Date, my data is still inaccurate, and I am paying for it! Total disrespect!