I Lied to Get MockingbirdMarketing.com

So let me get this aired first:

What follows is too little too late.

And I owe Mandy Graessle an apology, both public and private.

To catch you up to speed – when I was looking for a new domain for my legal marketing agency, I connected with Mandy, who owned MockingbirdMarketing.com – a site the supported her stint as a legal marketing consultant, but was now lying dormant as she had moved on to work directly with Stacy Burke.  I was concerned she wouldn’t sell it to me if she knew either who I was or what I wanted to do with it, so under the pretense of purchase this for a band, I purchased the site through a third party.  In short I misled her and lied.  For the details, check out Mandy’s blog: “Conrad Saam the “ethical marketing expert” scammed me into selling my website“.

This car wreck, of course, is made worse by the fact that I have very vociferously written and spoken against online marketing agencies in the legal space for unethical, duplicitous and shady behavior.  So being rightly grouped with these scumbags is a huge embarrassment.

My reply to her post (copied) below smacked of hubris and arrogance.

Mandy –

So there’s this line in the Godfather (the book, not the movie) where Michael’s rejoinder to the comment “its nothing personal, its just business” goes something like this:

“The Godfather takes everything personally. If a friend of his were hit by a bolt of lightening he’d take it personally. And that is what makes him great.”

So its mostly unhelpful for me to tell you this is just business, because of course you take something personally that you’ve worked on. I’d feel the same way. The reality is, had you known who I was you would have asked for a lot more and I would have ended up registering something like mockingbirdie, or mockingbird-marketing or some such other second rate domain and you’d have $300 less in your bank account. But, my genuine apologies that the way this went down made you feel bad.

As for Dave – he’s my cousin and a drummer in a band in London and an all around great guy.

You’ve got my email address now . . . feel free to use it.


So to Mandy – I’m very genuinely sorry.  To everyone else: you are correct – especially within legal marketing we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard – a standard that I have been pushing for a long time, yet failed to hold myself up to.

Mandy and I are scheduled to have a phone conversation tomorrow.  Expect an update.




Mandy and I just had a phone conversation.  And to paraphrase her comments – It may be the Buddhist in me, but sometimes things don’t come to a positive conclusion.  From our conversation, she is idealistic and deep hearted. I offered a genuine apology and we talked about the difficulty in that – given our initial first interaction was based on subterfuge.  We also spoke at length about the dearth of ethics in the legal marketing field and the irony of this incident and the fact that I aggressively call out those whose conduct is unethical. Finally – for those of you who don’t know her idealism – she is not looking for money or even the domain – instead rightly calling out what happened.  Frankly, Mandy made this much easier for me than warranted.

Mockingbird has now been moved to a new domain – utilizing the newly implemented .marketing TLD, so the original domain can be easily transferred back to Mandy, should she change course and make that request. Additionally, we’re directing our 1% For Good towards both the Houston arts scene and a cause Mandy has become personally involved in.  1% For Good is our charity campaign where we donate 1% of our revenue to a variety of different causes – in the past we’ve provided funding for everything from colon cancer research, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and a tiny 7 child orphanage in Africa – and right now I can’t think of anything more appropriate than supporting the Houston arts scene.


1% for Good: Challenged Athletes Foundation

Well, it’s been a year since we started the 1% For Good Campaign at Mockingbird – which provides regular donations to charities.  Our first ever donation was to The Challenged Athletes Foundation.  In support of my brother, who has made CAF a regular part of his life, this year, we’ve come back around to supporting CAF – contributing a small portion of the more than $1.1 million dollars raised at this year’s Challenge.

The San Diego Triathlon Challenge

Every year, CAF puts on The San Diego Triathlon Challenge – a fundraising race where a mix of physically challenged athletes and able bodied athletes complete a grueling triathlon on a very hilly course in San Diego. It’s a mile swim, 44 mile bike and 10 mile run.  Imagine completing that on prosthetic legs, or with the help of a guide because you are legally blind.  1511760_851744784849157_5009061916467516567_n

A Note from Paul

The people we support in this endeavor are not the type to let a challenge or some discomfort stop them from achieving their dreams.  It’s time for me to meet the challenge and raise critical funds for the military personnel who lost limbs in service of our county, the children who have had limbs ravaged by cancer, and the survivors of horrific accidents who refuse to hear “you can’t do that.”  As I told you last year, I truly believe that outside of being a husband and parent, this is the most important thing I do every year.

Note the rainbow socks Paul is  wearing – they were in the athletes’ goody bags and were a subtle tribute to Robin Williams, who was heavily involved in CAF.

1% For Good: His Heart My Voice

our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others – Titus 3:14

I received an email request from a friend the other day:

I wanted to see if you could do something for me.  Well a friend.  But he’s unaware that I’m trying to help him.  He and a friend started what might as well be an orphanage for some children in Kenya a few years ago. I met him and was very fascinated with his story.  I’m also inspired by what they do. I’m not Christian but I love what they’re doing out there.


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His Heart My Voice was founded by Dave Richardson with the mission of turning faith into words and actions to help humanity. Through Dave’s work in Africa, he ran across a small group of very young children living on the street, and being Dave, he’s taken these kiddos in.  His charity now provides seven very young children, who have no where else to turn to, with food, clothing, education, and safety.  But its more than this –  he is really providing them with a future. So, we’re happy to sponsor two of those kiddos – Henry Ndungu and Mary Wangui (whose smile and pigtails frankly reminds me of my own daughter, albeit without our overwhelming Caucasian genetics.)

In the overall scheme of things, HHMV is a tiny charity making a tiny impact in a part of the world that I’ve never seen, nor probably ever will.  And while everyone’s approach to faith may be different – the concept of doing good for those less fortunate is a common thread and should be a common thread among all of us.  Charities like these are frequently more deserving of support than the massive fundraising machines that dominate the marketing battle over charitable dollars.


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Do a little good in the world today . . . .


Shaming State Farm: A Social Media Experiment

Two weeks ago, my wife and I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to a loud crash.  Tow trucks and police cars followed and in the morning, we found this in the backyard (minus the 2013 Lexus the formerly filled said hole.):

photo 2

Unfortunately, the following day no one knocked on the door to offer either apologies or insurance information, a few days of my sleuthing through police reports finally brought me to . . . State Farm.  Now as far as I am concerned, the insurance as a whole lives at the very bottom of the ethical business barrel – and while there are some exceptions (I’m an ardent fan of Farmers), my experience with both Allstate and now State Farm suggests value to their shareholders is delivered through screwing their own customers.  Frankly this is one of the reasons I love working with lawyers – at Mockingbird we’ve codified this into the way we think.  The first of our 10 Commandments is “We Love Lawyers” – this is explained in greater detail in our new employee training manual:

We Love Lawyers – Attorneys who represent individuals are the primary counterbalance to corporate greed, the widespread abuse of police and political power and the abusive Insurance industry. We are honored to play a small role in this system.

Now, back to State Farm and our little fence problem . . .

Two weeks have gone by – I’ve called state farm once, twice, three times a day during the interim.  I’ve spent roughly four hours on hold and been transferred between departments and managers.  I’ve been hung up on.  I’ve left innumerable identical messages.  I’ve been polite.  I’ve been a jerk.  I’ve been patient and I’ve been irate.  And yet – the fence looks just like it that first day.  I’m still waiting on State Farm to take step 1A.

So, I decided to create a billboard for State Farm.  They do lots of advertising, so why not inject a little truth into their advertising . . .

photo 1


In all fairness, I “may” have casually arranged some Lexus parts carefully on top of the fence for dramatic effect.  Unfortunately the remaining fence wasn’t big enough for my new tagline:  “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is . . . .Where?

(And the “2” looks like a “1”, because it used to be a “1” – not sure what happens once we get to “3”.)

1% for Good: Get Your Rear in Gear in Memory of Katie Tinnea

Last year, my son’s 1st grade teacher, Katie Tinnea died of colon cancer.  She was a young mom, a great teacher and made sharing her experience the final lesson plan for a classroom of kiddos (and parents).  Our family has been running in 5Ks supporting colon cancer research ever since we met Katie.  This year, I was flattered to have some of my co-workers join the race.


Katie’s support group was called Purple Power – and Purple Power was out in force this year and I was pleased to contribute 1% of our revenue last month to cancer research on behalf of Purple Power.  Ryan and Kennedy – all of us think of you on a regular basis.

Why I am Lucky to Work with Amazing Clients

There’s nothing worse than people who assume they can get free advice from professional service providers.  I’ve doled out more free SEO advice than I can imagine and I know lawyers get hit up for legal advice all the time.

So when acquaintances of mine ask for an intro to a lawyer for a quick legal question, it’s always a bit dicey.  What follows is the slightly sanitized interchange between myself and one of my clients that makes it worth coming in to work every day:


. . . if you can help my friend, who has a legal question, I’d be most appreciative.  If so, please send me an invoice for your time and I’ll deduct from your next bill . . .


Happy to help—informally as a courtesy to you.   If you can have your friend email directly with the issue, any supporting documentation, any interview date and location, and a phone number, that would be great.  I won’t charge for that.


Thanks for this.  And genuinely – charge me for it.  As a service provider myself (and being married to one), I insist on paying for advice – especially from one of my clients.


Ain’t gonna happen!!!!!!!


At the most basic level, SEO is the practice of influencing the results in a zero sum game and sometimes I question the value we bring toe the world overall.  Exchanges like the one above put all of this in a much larger perspective.  To our amazing clients – thank you for making my day.


Atticus is Now Mockingbird

I started Atticus Marketing two years ago, consulting on SEO  for a few law firms as a side gig to my day job.  Today, we’ve grown into a small team of marketing experts running 30 law firm websites.  Our service offerings have expanded from SEO and include everything from design to technology to business consulting.

In doing so, we’ve bumped into a great law firm consultancy out of Florida – Atticus Inc. (great name, if I say so myself).   I had breakfast with their CEO Mark Powers at the Orlando airport and learned much about the other Atticus. Most importantly, while our product offerings are fundamentally different, they are close enough that it is genuinely confusing.

So, as of today, Atticus is being transformed into Mockingbird. I value the consistency of branding with Harper Lee’s novel and the mockingbird branding offers a little more.  In researching the brand, I ran across an article by environmental journalist, Chris Clark:  An Intro to Mockingbirds: The Noisiest, Most Aggressive Small Bird You’ll Ever Meet.  I like that headline. A lot.  And if you know me even a little bit, the metaphor extends perfectly. Here’s how Chris defines the mockingbird:

The northern mockingbird’s absolutely fearless defense of its nest probably puts it in the running for bravest animal in the desert. It certainly makes it a contender for most annoying.

You have to give mockers points for guts. When’s the last time you took on an opponent who outweighed you by a factor of 1,500? . . . . Which doesn’t mean they’re above taunting them.

Heh.  So, here’s to bravely and noisily annoying opponents who outweigh you. Watch these two little birdies tenaciously and fearlessly drive off a huge predator:

1% for Good: Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative

This is a crappy post to write.  Generally, I’m a few steps removed from Atticus’ 1% for Good campaigns – this time it hits home.  Courtesy of social media, I recently learned that one of my earliest Seattle friends, Sig  is undergoing treatment for Sarcoma – a connective tissue cancer usually associated with children, but occasionally cropping up in adults.

Sig on the PitchI played rugby with Sig at Old Puget Sound Beach – one of the premier rugby teams in the USA Superleague.  He’s every part the rugby player, a huge dude with the body fat of a teenage cross country star.  He looks like the love child of Ivan Drago and Arnold Schwarzenegger and specialized in laying our competitors flat on their backs.  Even his name is tough – Siegfried Kohl.  He’s also a paramedic and on many occassions was called to tape OPSB players up so they could get back on the pitch.

For this month’s 1% For Good – we’ve made a donation to The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative – which dedicates over 97% of donations to sarcoma cancer research.   Thanks to a slew of new clients, we had a record month in January – if you count among Atticus’ client base, thank you for making this possible.

Wishing you well Sig.

1% For Good: Sea Shepherd

I wanted pictures of the Atticus team with sweatshirts and flag from Sea Shepherd before I revealed them as our December 1% For Good donation, but today’s photographs and reports coming out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary have forced my hand. While Sea Shepherd’s fulfillment for their online store may be very slow – their boats are much faster at intercepting and driving out the Japanese whaling fleet from Antarctic whaling grounds.

Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd captain, Canadian Paul Watson has been combating the Japanese whaling fleet for years and has been featured on the show, Whale Wars. The Japanese fleet exploits a loophole in International Law to “harvest” whales for scientific purposes – supplying whale meat to the Japanese consumer market. According to yesterday’s statement by Sea Shepherd – they have driven the whaling fleet out of the southern whaling grounds.

Along with yesterday’s statement, Sea Shepherd released  images of 3 minke harpooned whales, as well as the gruesome bloody video of a whale being butchered on the deck.  Hardly “scientific study.”

Watson is facing numerous legal concerns – and while the organization may take heat from some within the legal community for their actions – we are very happy to offer a small piece of financial support to Sea Shepherd’s efforts to publicize and stop the slaughter of whales.

Update: Recently, the attorney who represents Sea Shepherd did an interview on KEXP to discuss his work with the organization and the recent U.N. court ruling to end Japan’s whale huntington. You can see it here on his blog article, ‘Why I Represent Sea Shepherd‘.