John Downing is in intellectual-property lawyer based in Oakland, CA. I hired Downing in April 2001 to help me collect a debt that was owed me for some contract programming I had done.
I paid Downing $800 to write a letter of complaint to the debtor. It took him over a month - and a couple of reminders from me - to do this. The letter was basically a form letter.
The debtor's lawyer responded fairly promptly, with a very weak defense - it equated the value of software with the value of a computer storing the software, which is hogwash. I met with Downing to discuss the next step. It was clear that he hadn't read the response, and I had to explain its fallacy to him. We agreed that, for another $800, he would write a letter offering a compromise settlement.
Several months went by without Downing doing anything. I called and emailed him many times, reminding him of the urgency of acting quickly. He didn't respond to these messages, and when I finally reached him in person he complained of his tremendous time pressures due to various other cases. Apparently my matter had zero priority, even though I had already paid him.
Finally I gave up and told him to refund my $800. Again, many messages met with no response. Eventually I reached him in person and he agreed.
But then several more months passed with no refund. What a nightmare! I had hired this guy to solve a problem for me, and instead he had created a new and identical problem. I left him a sequence of messages threatening to take him to small-claims court, and to publicize his irresponsible actions on the Web (which is what I am doing here).
Eventually he did send me the refund, but at this point my chances of collecting the original debt - and my enthusiasm for spending more time and energy on it - are close to zero.
In summary: my experience would suggest not hiring John Downing for legal work.