Saturday, July 22, 2006

Life as a lawyer in Albany

As for the whole life as a lawyer in Albany thing (wasn't that the original purpose of this blog?), we expect to have our first associate starting in early August. This should free up some time for me to see my family more, get web work done (I've badly neglected the Daniel Cady website), and maybe get back to having a hobby. Regular people have hobbies, right?

Most likely I'll start doing Tai Chi and Kung Fu again. I'm in terrible shape now. I did Tai Chi and Kung Fu for a couple years and it was really good for me. For those who don't know, Kung Fu is really just ballet with a cool name, while Tai Chi is Kung Fu done really, really slow. Okay, I'm kidding, but sometimes it does seem like it. I could do other kinds of exercise, but this stuff is actually fun.

If you're into this stuff, Albany is actually a great place to be. The Capital District Tai Chi and Kung Fu Association is run by Jianye Jiang. This guy is known internationally for Chinese martial arts. He's got a wonderful program with lots of variety, and the price is very reasonable. There are classes that are good for old folks like me, and the Kung Fu is good for young whippersnappers and still allows old folks like me to give it a shot. I'm only 40, so I should stop whining.

It's at 1095 Central Ave, behind Little Anthony's Pizza. When I went it was on Colvin behind Kelty's Iron Horse Pub.

Update on town court website

I should also mention that our traffic court website is doing well. We've got well over 100 courts in the directory now, including all of the New York City traffic courts. We're also very close to 1000 visitors a week. If things go well, we'll have most of the courts in NY done by the end of the year. But I'm always an optimist.

And we've got another law-related site in the works. Hope to have that up and running by the end of the year. More when we get there.

Drug war blog post

I keep trying to avoid mentioning the campaign blog, but since this post is relevant to Criminal Defense, I'll mention it. I posted about how we're wasting money in the War on Drugs. Read it if you're interested.

I've got a criminal topic I want to post on, but there's something still going on in this case and I'll have to wait at least a week to get to it -- stay tuned. :-)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dish Networks: Consumer griping

We're planning to upgrade our TV setup at home. We have Dish Networks satellite, mainly because I wanted Japanese programming and no one else seems to have it.

So I tried calling the number to do this. It gave me four or five choices, and none of these choices was for upgrading equipment.

So I pressed 0 for an operator.

If you're a company that sells things to consumers, your phone system should never tell a customer that the option they selected is invalid. Pressing 0 means I want to speak to a person. Not offering me that option means you don't value me as a customer. I'm trying to upgrade my equipment, and upgrade the programming as well. This means I'll be going from paying you about $300 a year to maybe $500 or $1000 a year. Or, I could switch to cable and pay you nothing.

With that in mind, doesn't it make sense to have a person answer the phone when I want to speak to someone? I'll talk to someone in India. I don't care. But don't stick me with a computer that tells me my choice is invalid.

And by the way, if you call the Redlich Law Firm (888-733-5299), you will get to speak to a person, 24/7/365. And if that person can't reach me, I'll get a text message on my cell phone and I'll call you as soon as I can. I started the firm with that approach because of past problems like I'm having now with Dish.

Sadly, it's not like cable's customer service is much better.

And how come these companies can't make their websites work better. I can't even login to Dish with Apple's main browser. How much would it cost these companies to make their websites cutting edge? $100K would buy a lot, but these companies should be throwing down $1 million or more. Looks to me like they spent maybe $20K.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Attorney advertising rules and web content #2

I'm still upset about the proposed rules on attorney web content. I'm sending a second letter to the Office of Court Administration about it, and I'm pasting the text of my letter below. I would appreciate any comments.


Michael Colodner, Esq.
Office of Court Administration
25 Beaver Street
New York, New York 10004

Re: Proposed rules for attorney advertising

Dear Mr. Colodner:

I write to further explain the concerns I mentioned in my June 20th letter, in particular relating to the Internet. The new regulations, supposedly aimed at TV ads, will harm consumers who use the Internet.

At the moment, legal information on the web includes both lawyer websites and websites controlled by corporations. These corporate-run websites are disturbing. A good example is SWI Digital, a company that has over 50 law-related websites such as Their slick websites do not tell you who is providing the information. They often refer you to an attorney by a form. You submit your information to their website and they refer your case to an unnamed attorney. With attorney websites, you know the source of the information, and you don’t submit your private information into unknown hands.

There are far too many of these corporate sites to list, but examples include,,, (founded by a lawyer but owned by Legal Brand Marketing LLC),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, etc.

That’s only a partial listing of law-related websites that compete with attorney websites. They compete in both the “organic” (unpaid) and paid listings. When people search for attorneys or for legal information on the web, they see some lawyer websites and some corporate websites.

The proposed rules would make impair lawyer websites in this competition. For organic listings, the regulations will make it more difficult for lawyers to “optimize” our websites. Organic listings are generally thought to be the majority of traffic on law firm websites, and this is certainly true for my website. Optimization, known in the web marketing industry as “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO, is a very complex process. The proposed disclaimers will impair keyword optimization by forcing lawyers to include content that will not be liked by the search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN are the leaders). The record-keeping requirements will be especially difficult for lawyers who frequently update their sites. Some in the SEO community believe frequent updating improves a website’s rank on search engines.

Mandated disclaimers will also confuse consumers, make the sites appear less credible, and effectively ban attorneys from using “pay-per-click” advertising (also known as “sponsored links” or PPC). For someone with a well-optimized site, PPC is not very important. But for others, PPC can be the main source of web traffic.

The vague nature of the regulations will also cast a further chill over attorney websites, as it is unclear what might provoke the wrath of the state bar.

Corporations are not subject to the same regulations, and cannot be held accountable for deceptive content and misinformation. If lawyers have to engage in this competition with our hands tied behind our backs, corporations will dominate the provision of legal information on the web, and consumers will suffer. With lawyer websites, the bar can hold attorneys accountable for deceptive conduct -- without any new rules.

The proposed rules are motivated by lawyer ads on television. I have yet to read a single article about an attorney website that demeans the profession. I have yet to see any explanation as to why these regulations attack attorney web content. Usually government encourages or even requires sellers to provide more information to consumers. Here the court system is perversely discouraging such disclosure.

With all of the foregoing in mind, I hereby request that the rules on websites not be implemented yet. In the alternative, I request a public hearing so that I can be heard on these issues, answer questions about this if those behind the rules have questions, and so that I may ask questions of the people behind the rules, to ensure they know what they’re doing.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,
Warren Redlich

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Problems with Yahoo continue

My problems with Yahoo advertising continue. See my previous post for more info on the past. After my dissatisfaction with their response about my "search" ads appearing on "content" pages, I contacted customer service to cancel my "LocalMatch" account.

I got an e-mail that said:
"We received your request to cancel your account. For security purposes, we request that you call us to cancel your account so that we can verify your information. Please call 866-YAHOO-SM (866-924-6676) or 626-685-5700 ...."

So I call, go through that whole process (maybe 10 minutes - not too bad I guess). At the end of the call, I'm told they'll send me an e-mail for verification that I want my money back. The e-mail came:

"If you would like to receive a refund for the remaining balance in your account, please respond to this email for verification."

So let me get this straight -- my initial e-mail needed to be verified by a phone call, and now the phone call needs to be verified by an e-mail. I know it could be worse (and I remember how difficult it was to cancel my AOL account some years ago), but why is this company going out of its way to annoy me, and presumably thousands of other customers like me?

Keep in mind that I came into web advertising with a very positive image of Yahoo. They keep eroding that image with a growing disregard for their customers. Shame to see it happen.

Speeding ticket post on my stop wasting money blog

I wrote an article on speeding tickets as a public policy issue on my campaign blog. I don't expect to mention my campaign blog often on this blog, but since the speeding ticket topic is one off the core elements of this blog, I figured I'd mention it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why Google is better than Yahoo

I advertise my law firm on Google and Yahoo. By that I mean, if you search for the right words on their search engines, my "ad" pops up in "Sponsored links".

I focus a lot more on my Google ads than my Yahoo ads. Google's ad program (called AdWords) is easier to use and more effective than Yahoo's (called Yahoo Sponsored Search).

A couple times now I have been burned by Yahoo doing something inappropriate with my ads. Today I got a call from someone who had seen me on the web. She said I was listed as an attorney on the directory for Ellenville. I don't even know where Ellenville is. So I did a search for redlich ellenville, and found the site: [something] If you go to, you'll see that they have "guides" to many different areas.

Well, it turns out that is a Yahoo partner. But to be clear, the caller did not search on She got to the Ellenville page (probably, and there's an ad there for me.

I should be clear about something now. In this kind of advertising, there's both "search" ads and "content" ads. Search ads appear when someone does a search. If you think those words relate to what you do, you pay for your ads to appear on those searches. I find this a very effective form of advertising.

Content ads appear on sites that are "related" to keywords you choose. These ads have two major problems. First, the person who gets to that page is less likely to be looking for what you do. Second, the owner of that page has an incentive to fake clicks on your ads because they're getting a cut of the ad cost. The latter is known as click fraud. Click fraud is virtually zero on search ads, but it's a big problem with content ads.

I have content ads turned off in both AdWords and in Yahoo Sponsored Search. Apparently Yahoo figured out a way to deal with this. They decided that ads are search, even though they're really content ads.

I complained and here was part of their response:

>This partner is actually considered to be part of our Sponsored Search network, rather than Content Match. We understand that is can sometimes be confusing to determine whether a partner implementation is considered Sponsored Search or Content Match,<

Let me be clear about this -- a search ad should appear when someone SEARCHES for something. A content ad would appear on page that contains content perceived as relevant to something. If the user didn't do a search, it's not a search ad.

I spend about four times as much on AdWords as on Yahoo. When my account runs out of money, I will probably discontinue the Yahoo ads. I'm not saying Google is perfect, but they respect their advertisers more. I also think the search engine delivers better results, but that's another topic.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Congress - the Stop Wasting Money blog

Quick update on the congressional campaign -- the Stop Wasting Money blog is now up. Just getting started, but it will start to roll soon.

BUSTED: Video on how to handle police

An organization I'm quite fond of, Flex Your Rights, has put their video on youtube. The video is named Busted, and I highly recommend it.

Basically, the video offers suggestions about what to do when you're confronted by police, including traffic stops, when you're stopped on the street, or when they come to your front door.

I don't agree with everything in the video. In particular, I don't like the suggestion of rolling down your window just a crack. That's a good way of making a cop not like you, and most courts will consider that to be suspicious behavior. I also think you should try to be polite and even show a sense of humor with police, but the humor can be difficult unless you're an arrogant jerk like me, and you have the knowledge to back it up. :-)

Anyway, check the video out (it's somewhat long, maybe 45 minutes).

A great comment on one of my previous posts

In April I did a post titled Criminal Injustice. I just got an anonymous comment on it and I'd bet my regular readers will be interested in it. I really want to encourage people to comment on my posts. It makes the blog more interesting.

An acquaintance actually said something to my wife about not agreeing with one of my posts on my restaurant review blog. I had criticized a local restaurant and she didn't agree with me. So post a review!! Isn't that the wonderful thing about blogs? This is supposed to be a revolution in participatory media, but you have to participate to really make it work.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Traffic lawyers are really just tax lawyers

Some of my traffic ticket callers seem upset at the injustice involved. They have a variety of complaints: weren't really speeding, others were going faster, police drive fast or use cell phones when they're driving, etc.

My personal opinion about this is simple. This system has nothing to do with justice or traffic safety. It's just another tax - a particularly unfair one, but still a tax.

If traffic enforcement were really about safety, then it would be much more focused on the most dangerous areas -- where there are lots of pedestrians, intersections, roads with disproportionate number of accidents, etc.

If it were really about safety, then cops wouldn't speed or talk on their cell phones while driving. I'm on the road a lot, and I see cops speeding all the time, and they're always talking on cell phones.

One caveat here -- I think most cops really believe in the child seat laws. When I'm negotiating with them, speeding tickets are always routine - even the high speeds. But a lot of Troopers get upset and are harder to deal with when the client had a kid out of a car seat. As an aside here, if those seats are so good (and I believe they are), then how come my seat doesn't have the extra straps?

Anyway, traffic enforcement is really about one thing and one thing only. Revenue. I've seen newspaper articles where towns brag about how much revenue their court generates. Funny. I didn't know that was the purpose of the courts or the police. The one I'm thinking of (Colonie a few years ago) had something like $500K in revenue. Okay, so your police budget is something like $4 million (not including Troopers and deputy sheriffs, who aren't on the town budget), and you spend probably another couple million on court staff and facilities, and your revenue is $500K? Not bragging material.

I keep running away from my point. Look, this is not about justice or safety. It's about revenue. The enforcement of traffic violations is simply a tax. This tax is unfair in many ways.

It's not a progressive tax -- traffic fines are the same whether you're rich or poor. Wealthier drivers are more likely to hire a lawyer and keep their fines/taxes down, so in reality it's a little regressive. Traffic fines in New York are among the highest around, so it's particularly harsh. Imagine someone making $20K/year getting whacked on a 31 mph ticket in a construction zone. Maximum fines and assessments total about $1700, and that's before your insurance rates spike.

It's an arbitrary tax -- while nearly all of us speed at some point in a given year (studies show that 85% of drivers drive over the speed limit consistently), few of us actually get ticketed. It's the luck of the draw. I've slowed down quite a bit from my younger days, but I still have my moments, and I haven't been ticketed in several years (knock on wood).

So I'm really just a tax lawyer. I work on reducing your traffic taxes.

Speeding Ticket Excuses: 12 weak ones and a couple that might work

I get a lot of calls about speeding tickets, and some callers have excuses. Most clients accept responsibility -- they know they were speeding and they just got caught.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. I like to reassure my clients that this is not about justice. It's an unfair tax, and I'm really just a tax lawyer, working to reduce their taxes (in the form of fines, surcharges, assessments, and insurance rates - that's the subject of another blog post someday).

But some of my clients have to tell me their story. It's almost never a good story. Below I list a few of my favorite speeding ticket excuses that I can remember. They're not in any particular order.

-Update: See my new post on Adrian Peterson's speeding ticket-

1. I was going downhill. -- Strangely, the highway people don't increase the speed limit on downhill sections of road.

2. I have oversized tires. -- These guys usually say they were going downhill.

3. I was passing a truck. -- I must have missed that exception in the Vehicle & Traffic Law.

4. I was late and my wife was waiting for me. -- I could see some cops buying this one, but not at 107 mph. One guy who told me this was a heart surgeon.

5. It was a rental car (or someone else's car) and I wasn't familiar with it. -- Are you telling me the car didn't have a speedometer?

As a brief interlude in our list, I saw this photo and had to add it to this post (update on 10/22/2011):

6. My car can't go that fast. -- One guy who told me this was driving a BMW 540, which has a top speed somewhere over 130 mph. He was charged with going 90. Almost every car on the road will go 90. Actually, the surgeon from #4 said this and I checked it out. According to the manufacturer the top speed was only 105, so maybe he was right, but 105 is still a bit illegal.

7. I was only going 78. Or another variation: No way I was going any faster than 80. -- I hear this one a lot. Still illegal folks.

8. I was just keeping up with traffic. -- Again, I hear this a lot. I could almost buy it at 75 in a 65, but not at 90 in a 55.

9. He pulled me over because my plates are from out of state. -- They write a lot of tickets to NY drivers.

10. I wasn't familiar with the road. -- So you were driving faster??

One excuse I've heard worked, but only because it was true. The Trooper followed the person after to make sure:

--I've got really bad diarrhea and I'm rushing to the next rest area.

No, that wasn't me. I heard it from a Trooper buddy.

Come to think of it, there is another one that works sometimes - if the speedometer was broken or there was some other equipment problem that might cause a speed problem. You have to back it up with an invoice from the shop that fixed the problem, and it won't always work. Don't expect this one to fly if you have a ticket over 90 mph. Even if your speedometer is broken, you should be able to recognize you're going that fast.

Update: Motivated by the Adrian Peterson speeding ticket, I'm adding a couple more excuses.

11. I didn't realize I was going that fast. This may make a little sense at 70 mph in a 55 zone, but it sounds idiotic at 125 mph. When you're going that fast, you should be paying attention.

12. I'm surprised I left this off my original list, but it relates well to #5 and #10. There's a bunch of variations:
I was lost.
I wasn't feeling well. - This is also often someone else in the car, like a kid, ... and one of my favorites:
It was foggy, I wasn't familiar with the road, I was lost, and I wasn't feeling well. (This guy was going 88 mph in a 45 mph work zone.) These are all good reasons to drive slower.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The paper trail

One issue I frequently see is clients not making a paper trail. The client will call me about a problem with their town, or someone they're dealing with on a contract.

The client will describe to me how they've talked to so-and-so on the phone, and the person says "x" and then doesn't do "x", or does "y" instead. For example, a town official tells them it's okay to build something, and then after they build it they come back and tell them they didn't have the right permit. Another example is when the other guy is supposed to pay you, but before payment he says he needs "x" documented. So you provide "x", and now he tells you he needs "y". Repeat ad nauseum.

Get it in writing! Or put it in writing. If you have a conversation about something important, and you have the slightest concern about the other person's reliability, send them a confirming letter.

"Thanks for speaking with me the other day. Following on your approval of this project, I will go ahead and start building. I really appreciate your assistance with my plans."

Notice the politeness. If you write in an aggressive tone, the person is more likely to respond in an unwelcome manner. This vaguely goes along with a line from a college buddy of mine -- "Sincerity is very important. If you can fake it, you've got it made."

Another tip is to include in your letter a self-addressed stamped envelope. Mention this in your letter: "Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I've enclosed an SASE for your convenience."

For extreme security, send the letter in a confirmable manner (FedEx, certified mail, etc.). Now they can't deny they got the letter.

If your problem goes to Court, your efforts to document the communication can be helpful. It will not always make the difference, and in some cases may not be admissible, but it will help in some cases. It's a lot better than: "But judge, he said ...".