July 12, 2010
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
I drove up I-75 from the Detroit area to Charlevoix yesterday, and was listening to the baseball game somewhere near Flint (WTRX, 1330-AM, part of the Detroit Tigers Baseball Network*) and heard an ad that I have to admit caught my attention. I've debated whether I really wanted to give this lawyer the free advertising that this post would entail, but what the heck. I leave to Mike and Alan to tell me technically whether there's a professional responsibility issue here; I can't decide if the lawyer is doing a public service or not.
It was a pretty standard divorce lawyer's radio ad ("When Matrimony Turns to Acrimony"), but what caught my attention was that the URL for the website was "dumpmyspouse.com." It went by quickly, so at first I thought that was the URL for a law firm, and that seemed pretty squirrelly to me. Would you really be doing a service to your clients by sending out communications to the courts, lawyers, and the public with your e-mail as "firstname.lastname@example.org?" (I should add, by the way, that I looked at this particular lawyer's online resume, and he seems to be a fully qualified, upstanding guy.)
I was wrong, however, about the website. "Dump My Spouse" is not a law firm, or a law firm's URL. It is a private referral service, obviously originated by this particular Flint lawyer. It has a map of the state of Michigan with all 83 counties outlined, and you are supposed to click on a county to find a lawyer who is part of the "Dump My Spouse" referral network. You can register to be part of the network. I wasn't going to click through all 83 counties, but I clicked on a random sample and, as far as I can tell, this Flint lawyer is still the only member of the network, which may answer the question posed in the preceding paragraph.
De gustibus non est disputandum.
* When I'm in Michigan, I get to watch my beloved Tigers to my heart's content on Fox Sports Detroit, but this pleasure has been sullied somewhat by the fact that 1-800-CALLSAM, the quintessential wee hours cheap advertising personal injury law firm of my professional youth in the Detroit area, has obviously prospered to the point that it is now the major sponsor of the ballgames, including the CALLSAM Post-Game Report. I think it even has one of the advertising spots right behind home plate, so that you get to watch Justin Verlander aim his slider at the right side of the M in alternate innings. By the way, just to make it clear that I'm an equal opportunity curmudgeon on this issue, I would get almost as disgusted (note the Latin root by the way) when I'd be listening to "All Things Considered" on NPR, and find out that it was underwritten in part by Silk & Stocking, the biggest law firm in town, and one to whom I was sending thousands of dollars of our legal business, with some goony slogan like "It's an Uncertain World: Be Advised" or "We Know the Territory."
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That is not as bad as the billboard for a Chicago divorce law firm that had a photo of a woman in her underwear and the slogan "Life is short. Get a divorce". Contact me if you never saw that one; I can send you a photo.
Posted by: Alberto Bernabe | Jul 12, 2010 5:47:34 PM
I read Jeff Lipshaws comments from the 07/12/10 post "DumpmySpouse.com. (DMS) His points well made. What do you think?
Jeffrey M Lipshaw is Associate Professor of law, Suffolk Law School. Please read the article.
First a look at the ethics rules of which DMS complies.
MRPC 7.2 Advertising
Oct 1, 1991 To assist the public in obtaining legal services, lawyers should be allowed to make known their services not only through reputation but also through organized information campaigns in the form of advertising. Advertising involves an active quest for clients, contrary to the tradition that a lawyer should not seek clientele. Nevertheless, advertising by lawyers entails the risk of practices that are misleading or overreaching. PAYING OTHERS TO RECOMMEND A LAWYER A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by these rules and for the purchase of a law practice in accordance with the provisions of Rule 1.17, but otherwise is not permitted to pay another person for channeling professional work. This restriction does not prevent an organization or person other than the lawyer from advertising or recommending the lawyer’s services. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in not-for-profit lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs.
DMS is not a private referral agency. It is simply a neutral advertising vehicle similar to Findlaw. For instance a Google search of Flint Divorce attorney and following the Findlaw link brings you to,
On DMS except for my links other attorney presence will be limited to an ad much like a Findlaw ad. See above.
In the upper right of each county page I have placed my name, phone and link to web page as an example. It is neutral advertising of contact information. Other than the ad I will have no affiliation with those attorneys.
On each counties page is the contact information for the county court house and the Friend of the Court. At the bottom is advertising of my State Wide Domestic Mediation.
My position is that dumpmyspouse.com complies with our ethics rules.
The real issue is dose this advertising demean the profession. Here there is a split of opinion. I'll not argue my position here. Simply stated I believe DMS complies and is a public service breaking down barriers to access.
Most importantly you raised the ethical issue. I believe DMS is ethical and will continue this discussion should I be asked.
Terry R. Bankert
Posted by: Terry Bankert | Jul 15, 2010 11:11:11 AM
Quote from Mr. Bankert's post:
"The real issue is dose this advertising demean the profession."
Nothing demeans credibility like spelling errors.
Sorry, can't help myself.
Posted by: Eileen | Jul 15, 2010 8:25:16 PM
My experience tells me that MOST lawyers are out to make money off of other's personal problems. To do this they encourage acrimony (the more fighting the higher their take home pay). They also (almost always) feel they are upright, ethical people who are helping others. (Just as used car sales men believe they are selling the "best" car to a client even if the loan for the car traps him/her in a miserable cycle of debt.)
But to most people who are NOT beneficiaries of this fee income they look like they are the cause of a lot of the suffering they foster and exploit. (I guess I would include drug advertisers in this class also.)
Posted by: sue simkin | Jul 16, 2010 5:45:24 AM
That is funny. "Dump my spouse" definitely wouldn't be appropriate for a law firm!
Posted by: Lawyer | Jul 30, 2010 10:23:09 AM
I still think that is a very unprofessional site name.
Posted by: Tobler Law | Sep 15, 2010 8:07:44 AM
It's like a criminal defense attorney having a domain like getawaywithmurder.com. Not cool!
Posted by: John Tungston | Dec 10, 2010 1:06:28 PM
Yeah, or a dui lawyer with drinkanddrivewithnoconsequences.com
Posted by: Mendel Potok | Dec 10, 2010 1:08:14 PM
I agree with the last few comments. Even if you are really good at what you do, you should be careful with a domain like that.
Posted by: Injury Lawyer | Feb 1, 2011 3:06:38 PM
Thanks for the information! I think it's sad that they have that domain, also, but it's great idea for an attorney who specializes in that kind of thing.
Posted by: Lilia | Mar 3, 2011 11:51:04 AM
That is not a very professional name. It sounds funny in private but I think it is not a name for a legal business.
Posted by: Lawyers in Albuquerque | Oct 24, 2011 1:44:07 PM