Adventures in Lawyer Advertising

About a year and a half ago, Morrison & Foerster unveiled an insane edgy new website, openly embracing its MoFo moniker and a new “What the MoFo?” theme. At the time, we walked you through the minefield of interactive design elements that the site offered.

Now, after what I can only guess has been a year and a half of head scratching, if not outright mockery, from clients and other lawyers, MoFo has apparently decided to abandon its $1 million design experiment in favor of a more traditional approach to law firm advertising. Gone are the brainteasers and optical illusions. Gone are the indecipherable picture puzzles.

But fear not, there is still plenty of crazy to be had. Find out all about the new “MoFo mojo” after the jump….

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The legal profession isn’t known for its sense of humor. On the contrary, most attorneys take themselves way too seriously. As a result, we see some pretty ridiculous attorney advertising that ends up being unintentionally funny. And while we’re happy to poke gentle fun at these websites and ads, our commentary isn’t always well received. Because another thing that lawyers aren’t known for is the ability to accept criticism.

Knoxville attorney Stephen A. Burroughs, a personal injury and auto accident lawyer and my new favorite person, is an exception to these rules. Anyone from the Knoxville area is likely familiar with Burroughs, having seen his serious, bearded face on billboards all over town.

The ads were so ubiquitous, and Burroughs’s gaze so smoldering and intense, that someone created a Facebook page devoted to Stephen A. Burroughs Memes, transforming Burroughs into Knoxville’s answer to The Most Interesting Man in the World. As the Facebook page gained popularity, the funny memes started pouring in.

Even better than the jokes, though, was Burroughs’s unexpectedly awesome response….

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Every time we do a post about a crazy attorney website, our readers send in even more tips about the seemingly endless supply of wacky websites that are out there (which we appreciate, so keep ‘em comin’). Rarely, however, do we get a tipster begging us to place a fellow attorney in Above the Law’s crosshairs. Until now: “Can you please, please profile this guy, Mark Davis from Toledo, Ohio?” Well, since you asked so nicely….

As far as we can tell from his many, many websites, Mark A. Davis, a solo practitioner in Ohio and Michigan, is a sort of jack-of-all trades who aims to corner the market in all ways possible. In his own words: “Attorney Mark Davis, founder of The Davis Law Office has always lived his life to accomplish nothing less than excellence.”

Here, excellence means, among other things, being able to break bricks with his bare hands (sadly, the video links to these feats are “private” and can’t be viewed). In his opinion, your attorney should not only excel in the courtroom, but “should be mentally tough and a gentleman warrior.”

This gentleman warrior has taken to fighting the good fight on almost all possible legal fronts. Really, it seems that there is nothing that his guy hasn’t tried to do, both in the courtroom and out. From martial arts to starving horses, keep reading to uncover the many talents of Mark Davis….

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Ah, the good old “how many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb” joke. It’s pretty stupid, but all of its variants never seem to get old.

For example, here are a few from James Fuqua’s Law Jokes:

Q: How many lawyers does it take to [change] a light bulb?

A1: How many can you afford?

A5: Three. One to change it and two to keep interrupting by standing up and shouting “Objection!”

A8: You won’t find a lawyer who can change a light bulb. Now, if you’re looking for a lawyer to screw a light bulb…

Well, thanks to a mid-size firm in Minnesota, we now know that it takes exactly five lawyers to change a light bulb….

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I remember watching Legally Blonde while I was in law school and realizing even then how unrealistic it was. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie and I still do now, but I never for a second thought that my career would be anything like that. I was even more confident that there would be no pink suits in my professional wardrobe.

It seems that not everyone was quite as ready to accept the realities of the professional world. Meet the self-proclaimed Law Lady, Melissa K. Dubose. Ms. Dubose (or MkD, as she has dubbed herself) runs a solo criminal defense practice in Dallas, touting herself as “a brazen straight-shooter with a passion for fighting injustice and a knack for uncovering doubt.”

She also appears to have a knack for dressing as though she works in a David E. Kelley-created law firm. The main page of the website shows MkD in the requisite pink “suit,” staring into the sky with an almost super-hero-like gaze, perhaps caught in the middle of her fight against injustice.

This opening shot is just the beginning of the legal fashion show. A tour through the Law Lady’s website provides a good sampling of the legal services costume changes that MkD has to offer…

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Silly things happen when no one speaks up.

The classic example was when General Motors chose to name one of its cars the Chevrolet “Nova.” In Spanish, “no va” means “it does not go,” which isn’t a great name for a car sold in Spanish-speaking countries. I’d bet that a few hundred Spanish-speaking employees of GM noticed that issue before the car hit the market, but no one bothered to speak up.

Let me offer two more examples of failing to speak up, with both examples coming at my own expense. (I wish I weren’t such an easy target, but such is life.)

The first example involves a law firm. Twenty-two years ago, as a lateral sixth-year associate, I accepted a job at Jones Day in Cleveland. I saw during the hiring process, and again when I sat down at my desk on the first day of my new job, that all of the firm’s promotional materials included the firm’s marketing slogan: “Jones Day: One Firm Worldwide.”

I’d been practicing law for six years at that point, so I was a relatively sophisticated lawyer, although by no means an old hand. Perhaps older and wiser folks looked at the tagline “one firm worldwide” and thought: “Terrific! I’m going to hire those guys because they’re one firm worldwide!”

But that wasn’t how it struck me. I sat there scratching my head: How many firms was I supposed to think Jones Day was? Two firms? Three firms? A half-dozen? And why was the apparent misperception — that Jones Day was more than one firm — so widespread that the firm devoted its main branding opportunity to dispelling this confusion? Of the many praiseworthy things that could surely be said about my new employer, why did the fact that it was only “one firm” top the list? Wouldn’t it be slightly more helpful to say, for example, “Jones Day: Pretty Good Lawyers”? Would the Jones Day slogan make sense for any other big firm? Would “General Motors: One Firm Worldwide” be a useful marketing tool? What the heck was going on?

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I am not proud to admit this, but it is possible that my three-year-old niece knows more about branding than I do. I learned this the other day when I was reading my niece one of her favorite books, Fancy Nancy.

For those of you who not know Nancy, she is a little girl who loves to dress fancy, act fancy and talk fancy. For example, this little girl does not say that her favorite color is purple. She prefers fuchsia, a word that is “fancy” for purple. Similarly, Nancy does not want a new hairdo. No, Nancy uses the fancy word “coiffure” instead. For some reason, my niece loves Nancy, but I think she is a showoff. When asked why she loves the know-it-all Nancy, my niece explained that she made things sound better.

Maybe my niece had a point. If you want your small firm to sound better, then use fancy words. As Nancy would explain, do not call yourself a “trial lawyer.” Everyone knows that “litigator” is fancy for trial lawyer. Or is it?

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I don’t know who Janofsky and Walker angered, but they are off the marquee at Paul Hastings. Yep, this Friday, “Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & LLP” will officially become “Paul Hastings.”

We’ve already noticed that Paul Hastings has a snazzy new logo.

But did you know that Paul Hastings also has a video to go along with their rebranding? Oh yes they do! Clearly, Messrs. Janofsky and Walker were just way too inside the box for the new and exciting Paul Hastings…

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Latham & Watkins is about to join the likes of Ballard Spahr and Cox Smith in requiring their associates to pose for mandatory body shots for the firm’s new website.

According to an email sent out to all Latham attorneys yesterday, the new photos are part of an ambitious project to redesign the firm’s website and advertising materials to make them “world class.” Or, as one tipster put it: “Latham wants to look as prestigious as DLA Piper by forcing associates to submit to ridiculous photo shoots.”

Indeed, Latham has hired Gittings Photography, a studio specializing in, among other things, law firm photography. According to the Gittings website, they have been hired by firms such as Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper and Jones Day, and they are already touting Latham as a client.

It seems, however, that Latham has grand plans to go beyond the traditional attorney portraits that appear on these other firms’ sites. Find out just what Latham management has in mind, and what Latham associates should be prepared for, after the jump.

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Law firm advertising is expensive and certain methods may be cost-prohibitive for small firms. For instance, a small firm may not be able to afford a television or print campaign. Enter online marketing including, among other things, Google AdWords and sponsored links. In 2009, a law firm filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin state court challenging certain marketing strategies as an invasion of privacy, as defined in the Wisconsin privacy statute. Luckily for consumers and small firms, the court disagreed.

The case involved the two most prominent personal injury firms in Wisconsin. One of them, Cannon & Dunphy, used a Google AdWords PPC (price-per-click) strategy (and other search engines) to bid on the name of the state’s largest personal injury firm, Habush, Habush & Rottier. In other words, when a user would search the terms Habush or Rottier, a Cannon & Dunphy link would show up in the shaded section as a Sponsored Link.

Habush sued Cannon, alleging that Cannon’s online marketing campaign violated Wis. Stat. §995.50. That statute prohibits “the use, for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade, of the name . . . of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person,” and provides a cause of action where such an invasion of privacy was unreasonable.

The result of the litigation, after the jump….

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