Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to Respond to Criticism in the Social Media Age

Properly responding to Social Media Criticism is an important skill to learn. In the Social Media Age, those who learn this skill will be successful. Those who are unable to master this ability will suffer. There are several methods that may be utilized when dealing with Social Media Criticism. Some of the ways to deal with Social Media Criticism include:

1) Ignoring the criticism and hope it subsides and is soon forgotten.
2) Responding to the criticism in the same medium to demonstrate that the criticism is unfounded.
3) Taking legal action against those who have criticized you.

Ignoring the criticism may work in some instances. However, do not hide under a rock. Monitor the criticism to understand if and how it may harm your reputation and brand.

If one decides to respond to social media criticism it may be done in the same medium that the original criticism occurred. For example, when legal marketer Larry Bodine called me a crank and appeared to defend an unethical and misleading marketing practice when I outed a fellow legal marketer who was practicing Social Media Credential Fraud I responded to Bodine by stating the facts and the law to rebut his position. Since I was correct about the law and facts he has not responded.

Another way to respond to social media criticism is to file a lawsuit against those who have directed criticism towards you. On April 1, 2011, The Washington Post wrote a story about lawyer Joseph Rakofsky's handling of his first trial. Rakofsky's first trial did not go as planned. It ended in a mistrial and according to the Washington Post the judge in the case indicated among other things, that Rakofsky did not have good grasp of legal procedures. Subsequently, the American Bar Association, Thomson Reuters, and other well-respected media outlets and lawyers discussed this case in traditional media outlets, on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

It appears that Rakofsky was not pleased that he was criticized so he decided to sue everyone he believed had criticized him and he has alleged that the criticism rose to defamation. Scott Greenfield has nicknamed the case Rakofsky v. Internet.

Some of the alleged facts of this matter include:
1) This was Rakofsky's first trial which was also a felony murder case.
2) Rakofsky was not licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction upon which the case originated and needed to be admitted pro hac vice in order to handle his first trial.
3) In paragraph 102 (p23) of Rakofsky's complaint he states "as a result of the blatant alliance between Judge Jackson and the AUSA"....
4) In paragraph 111 (p28) of Rakofsky's complaint it appears he is accusing a judge of intentionally publishing on the record slanderous and defamatory statements against him.
5) In paragraph 122 (p33) of Rakofsky's complaint he tries to explain that he used an unfortunate shorthand word ("trick") while stating in an email to his investigator "Please trick...(old lady) into admitting:"

Rakofsky should have learned to walk before he ran with a murder case. One's first trial should not be defending an alleged murderer. The above points and the rest of the complaint demonstrates that Rakofsky may not understand the legal definition of defamation. Rakofsky makes unfounded allegations against a judge, a prosecutor, reporters, members of the media and fellow attorneys. Does Rakofsky believe that the New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct for the Lawyers (and NY and DC; even though he is only barred in NJ) and the FTC Advertising Regulations do not apply to him?

According to the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct, it appears that Rakofsky may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Washington, DC. In an advertisement that appears to list Rakofsky's Washington, DC address (a Regus virtual office address) it may provide the impression that Rakofsky is a Washington, DC barred lawyer. Rakofsky may want to review In re Banks, 561 A.2d 158 (DC 1987) and Brookens v. Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law, 538 A.2d 1120 (DC 1988). Rakofsky's actions (ex: obtaining a DC virtual office address without a DC license) may demonstrate an intent to circumvent the DC Bar rules.

Taking legal action against those who have criticized you via social media should only be done after all other options have failed and only when one has the law and facts on his side. Filing a lawsuit against The Washington Post, The American Bar Association, Thomson Reuters, and numerous other entities and attorneys will not restore one's reputation. The best way for an attorney to build his reputation is through ethical conduct, hard work, and successful client representation. Unethical conduct, misleading advertising, and unsuccessful client outcomes are not the building blocks for a successful legal career.

The only reason I did not address "the Rakofsky Affair" earlier is that I was busy discussing Social Media Credential Fraud and I felt all of those who Rakofsky sued said everything that needed to be said about the matter. The moral of the story is in the Social Media Age young lawyers should not follow Joseph Rakofsky's playbook.

Rakofsky should drop his lawsuit before it further destroys his life. This situation should serve as a final exam hypothetical in every law school throughout the country.

If Rakofsky takes legal action against me and/or my law firm for this post or any past or future posts I will file a complaint against him with the New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC Attorney Grievance Committees, the Federal Trade Commission, and I will file a counter suit. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, Rakofsky... go ahead MAKE MY DAY!

To learn how to respond to social media criticism you may contact me at

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.