Caveat Emptor: Error 404 Not Found
Caveat Emptor was my consumer rights blog, although you can’t read it any more. I posted several times a week while I was practicing, and even for several years after I sold my consumer law practice. I kept it alive—barely—for years because didn’t want to let it go. But I have finally realized it’s time. Caveat Emptor is no longer relevant to anything I’m doing and I haven’t updated it in years.
So the other day I archived the site and allowed the domain to expire.
I started Caveat Emptor in 2005, around the same time I started my law firm. It just seemed like a way to tell everyone what I was doing. It wasn’t called “Caveat Emptor” at first. It was just a Blogger blog clunkily integrated into my law firm website. I wrote about local news with a legal angle, felon disenfranchisement, net neutrality, tort reform, and other things. But before long I moved the blog to WordPress, gave it a name, and focused my writing on consumer rights issues (more or less).
Then, in February 2007, I had my first guest blogging gig at Consumerist. Although it’s now an archive, Consumerist was still a Gawker blog at the time and very much in its heyday. That gig led to more, and for a while I was a regular guest blogger there. In exchange for posting at Consumerist I got paid a small amount, but I also got to include a little, bright red banner on my posts:
Caveat Emptor: the blog debt collectors love to hate.
(Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a copy of the actual banner image anywhere.)
I had a few other guest blogging gigs, like Public Citizen’s still-active (!) Consumer Law & Policy Blog. But Consumerist was definitely the big one.
Whether it was the byline or the banner, traffic to Caveat Emptor jumped. Since I sued debt collectors and defended people sued by debt collectors, it was good traffic, too. And thanks to posts like “Served By a Debt Collector? What To Do Next,” and “How Not to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit” (written by my associate-at-the-time, Randall Ryder), if you were searching for information about debt collection online, you were probably going to find Caveat Emptor. I attributed at least half my potential client inquiries to it.
The thing is, as all litigators know, litigation is nonstop and your schedule is not your own. A lot of your deadlines are court-imposed deadlines, not easily changed. Between the hustle to get new clients and the hustle to serve existing clients and the hustle to keep the firm running, I was overwhelmed. So much so that I brought my laptop to the delivery room when my first child, Caroline, was born in 2009. (My understanding wife is also a lawyer, and she encouraged me to get some work done while she passed out from the pain.) And I was back at the office two days later. Something snapped, and I resolved to get my time back so I could spend it with my family. As part of that, I sold my consumer law practice to Randall in early 2011, while we were expecting my second child, Alexandra.
I kept Caveat Emptor, mostly because I couldn’t bear to part with all the work I’d put into writing it, but also because I hoped to monetize it by selling ads to other consumer lawyers. I kept posting actively through 2011. In early 2012 I started running out of steam, but still kept the posts coming in fits and starts for a few more years. By 2016 I decided what I was making from my two advertisers wasn’t worth the effort, and I basically gave up. In 2017 I published the last handful of posts. Sometime last year I added a notice:
THIS WEBSITE IS AN ARCHIVE
The information is almost certainly out of date, and I do not plan to update it.
Actually closing down Caveat Emptor now feels less painful than the idea of closing it down felt in 2011. Those posts about debt collection were still drawing hundreds of visits a month, but I doubt the information in them was still helpful. Taking those posts down is probably more consumer-friendly than leaving them up.
So it’s gone. The (belated) end of an era (for me).
Thanks for reading. I’m sure the end of Caveat Emptor only feels significant to me at this point. And Randall, maybe. But I felt like all that work and all those words deserved a little bit of recognition now that I’ve turned out the lights.