[Updates at the end, including some prior tweets from Mr. Adler, a response from Mr. Dent, an explanation of the long odds, and an interview on this tweet Mr. Adler gave to the BBC]
So yesterday a marginally funny tweet showed up on the page of a lawyer from Philadelphia. Since us attorneys are so well known for our sense of humor, it of course went viral. A hearty chortle was had by all, and people went on with their daily lives.
Just settled a divorce over visitation of a parrot. Neither may teach it negative phrases about the other. I went to law school for this.
— Michael Adler (@madler9000) November 14, 2016
So, Michael Adler is a Philly lawyer who, from his website, seems to specialize in business law. This means nothing, because I can say my areas of practice are geared towards protecting the intellectual property of one-armed left-handed underwater basket weavers. That doesn’t mean I won’t take a divorce if it walks through my door with cash in hand. I certainly will.
I have to say, Mr. Adler’s tweet was pretty amusing, too. I saw it last night and it gave me a brief smile, and I don’t smile. Joviality hurts my blackened soul. Apparently it was a slow news day as well, because the tweet even deserved a bit of a human interest story, getting a post on BillyPenn.com written about it.
Adler said disputes over dogs are relatively in common in divorces, but the parrot provided a new challenge… verbalization. In other words, they can talk. Therefore, they can talk shit.
So he spoke with other lawyers for advice this morning before coming up with “the idea of just agreeing not to say anything nasty in front of the parent.”
However, it appears one of those “other lawyers” may be @ParkerLawyer, who tweeted this back in September:
Just settled a divorce over Parrot custody/visitation. Neither may teach it negative phrases abt the other.
I went to law school for this.
— Lady Lawya (@Parkerlawyer) September 15, 2016
Those are…really similar. Oh shiiiiiiit, we about to get all Cease & Desist up in here!
Before we continue, let me say: I have no opinion on any of the people involved. I don’t encourage anyone else to form one. Reserve judgment until the facts are in.
Alright, so, here’s the deal. People see and tweet funny shit all the time, and people pass shit off as their own all the time, and it normally isn’t a big deal. Generally I’d see this and say “Oh, man, that sucks, getting called out for that.” In fact, that was my first reaction, making a mental note that, as we practice in the same area, if I ever ran across Adler I’d be sure to slip a subtle parrot reference into the conversation. Then I re-read that article from BillyPenn.com and my thoughts changed.
See, this isn’t really about the tweet as much as it is about the article at this point. If Adler didn’t credit a retweet, that’s a dick move for sure, but not really anything big. People repeat shit they read or hear all the time to be witty. Hell, it’s damn near my primary mode of endearing a date to me. The problem is, reading that BillyPenn.com article, it became clear that Adler was treating this not only as an original thought, but as an actual case that he handled. For instance, here’s a quote:
“You have to use creative skills to get at what is bothering the other side,” [Adler] said. “Having to dissolve emotional disputes.”
Yeah, that’s a true statement…but Adler seems to adopt the whole “I did this, this was my case” position. There’s no “No, that was just a joke.” Instead it’s “I totally did this. This is a case I had.”
Shit, Mike. What the hell man?
Actually, let me tone that back a bit, because people are fucking insane. There’s a chance Mr. Adler actually handled this case. There’s even a chance that the BillyPenn.com article isn’t accurate or the reporter/blogger who wrote it, Mark Dent (@mdent05) didn’t actually contact Adler. But I took a look at Mr. Dent’s credentials, and he looks to be a real journalist, meaning he would have vetted the story and quotes before publication. That’s…well, that’s a basic tenet of journalism. Just to verify this, I reached out via Twitter to Mr. Dent to check if the story was vetted with Adler, and Dent let everyone know he had:
— Mark Dent (@mdent05) November 15, 2016
Well, that’s disconcerting because, seriously, we’re a maligned profession. People already think we’re greasy no-goods who are coming for all their money. Any public misrepresentation by an attorney hurts our image, and certainly hurts Mr. Adler’s image. That’s sad, too, because from what I can tell, Adler is a good lawyer with a lot of credit to his name and practice, and this can impact people’s views of him. Certainly he’s aware of this, because he allegedly told Mr. Dent:
He said he got 700 new followers from the lottery tweet and already has about 80 more new followers from today’s parrot tweet.
“This has been a way to brand myself,” Adler said.
Dammit Mike. That just sounds…wrong…in this light.
Alright, so here are the options, and I want to be clear that we don’t know enough to know which one actually applies:
- Mike Adler stole the tweet and lied about the case to a reporter when it went viral, either maliciously or not;
- Mike Adler had a parrot case like @ParkerLawyer, and used the tweet because it was funny;
- Mike Adler had a parrot case like @ParkerLawyer, and came up with a tweet that was very similar (almost identical);
- Mike Adler copied a tweet he thought was funny, like people copy jokes, and a reporter made up a story to match.
Like I said, we don’t know which of those options are right. Maybe one of them is, maybe none of them are. However, the fact I’m writing about it in the middle of a workday means that people are noticing this. I’m not gonna judge anyone here, but at some point Adler will need to do damage control and explain this, because, as he intimated in his quote, he is his brand.
So, you know, let’s see how this turns out. I’ll update if need be, and if anyone involved wants to shoot me an email, I’ll give you equal space to address this stuff. Until then, let’s remember a cardinal rule of the profession: don’t do anything in public that you don’t want to be caught on.
Heard from Mr. Dent who has let me know the following:
So, Mr. Adler said he never saw the prior tweet. I’m assuming this means his statements in the article are regarding a case he actually handled. Coincidences do happen, and again, I’m not passing judgment here.
So this has been a topic of conversation today in the super-secret lawyer’s only chatroom, and somebody took it on themselves to go through some of the alleged offender’s earlier tweet records. If Mr. Adler was simply retweeting a funny statement, the same way a person may re-tell a funny story or joke they hear, it would fit into a pattern of behavior:
On Stockholm Syndrome:
I just finished a fascinating book about #StockholmSyndrome. I really didn’t like the first few chapters, but by the end I loved it.
— Michael Adler (@madler9000) October 10, 2016
Just finished reading a book on Stockholm Syndrome.
I really didn’t like the first couple of chapters, but by the end I loved it.
— Rob Thompson (@sirchutney) June 23, 2016
— Michael Adler (@madler9000) October 10, 2016
My life is 50% wondering if it’s too late to drink coffee and 50% wondering if it’s too early to drink alcohol
— Zac Galifianakis (@ZacGalifianakis) March 9, 2015
I have noticed that every time a sock goes missing from the dryer, it returns as an extra #tupperware lid.
— Michael Adler (@madler9000) September 5, 2016
— Michael Adler (@madler9000) July 26, 2016
Imagine what Republicans would have said if Barack Obama featured his 5 kids from 3 different women at his convention in 2008…
— Allen Clifton (@Allen_Clifton) July 23, 2016
— Michael Adler (@madler9000) July 20, 2016
Pokemon Go is already more popular than Tinder, another app where you swipe to find monsters in your area.
— Michael Hendrix (@michael_hendrix) July 13, 2016
That’s…a lot of coincidences. And, as said before, retweeting a joke without giving credit is a dick move, but that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is the fact that, according to BillyPenn.com, Adler has given statements indicating this was a real case that he handled. The fact that he has a history of repeating tweets from others without giving credit has only a circumstantial bearing on that question, but it does point towards the Parrot tweet being a repeat, and now casts the statement that he wasn’t aware of it in doubt.
Of course, and I want to be REALLY FUCKING CLEAR, we still have not heard from Mr. Adler himself. Judgment should be reserved until he speaks up. Put away the pitchforks, repeating other people’s jokes isn’t a crime (though, as said before, it is kind of a dick move). The question here is what, if any, statements did Adler himself make about the tweet as it relates to his own practice and cases he may have handled.
As pointed out by @andrewlseidel on Twitter, the odds of Mr. Adler matching the same five words in his tweet as @ParkerLawyer are the same as hitting the lottery twice then scoring a hole in one. Even assuming a limited dictionary of about 50 words, which we could have here for a tweet, the odds are still about 1 in 312,000,000.
The case for Mr. Adler doesn’t look great, but this is still circumstantial. If he DID have a parrot case, the likelihood goes up. However, as of now, he’s staying silent.
Thanks to an interview with BBC’s Newsday, we now know that Mr. Adler is stating this is a case he has personally handled.
Because I believe in the integrity of the profession, I’ll assume that, at worst, he stole the tweet or reposted it with crediting it, but that he isn’t making this up.
Just like I’m going to assume he actually read a book on Stockholm Syndrome, ponders the parenting of presidential candidates, loses his socks in the dryer and then finds extra Tupperware lids, spends his day pondering when he can hit the bottle, and has amazing Pokemon Go experiences.
I want to believe.
Christ, I take some time to actually do work today and another website posts this, this time People.com. Granted, it’s really just reporting on the article drafted by BillyPenn.com, which, by the way, has implied they have no reason to believe Adler fabricated the story or the tweet, nor that he copied the tweet.
@PlagiarismBad Plenty. We don’t publicly discuss conversations with our sources. Respect your intentions, but they’re misplaced here.
— Billy Penn (@billy_penn) November 16, 2016
Note, Billy Penn has also updated their article to recognize the questions that are surrounding this whole thing now. I will say this about them: They have done their due diligence. They contacted Mr. Adler, vetted the story with him, and when challenges or questions arose reached out to both Mr. Adler and @ParkerLawyer for comment on the matter. Adler, in the words of Billy Penn reporter Mark Dent:
stood by his story and denied stealing the tweet.
Meanwhile, @ParkerLawyer, according to the article, refused to comment, while @ParkerLawyer explains that as follows:
I did not refuse to comment. The author requested my full name and I agreed for him to know but not publish. He said no so here we are… https://t.co/X3bKcu9mMD
— Lady Lawya (@Parkerlawyer) November 16, 2016