Tapping Positive Lawyer Archetypes from Pop Culture

Author  Nadia Jones offers an intriguing insight into the pop culture world of law.

Believe it or not, the image of lawyers in the public imagination isn’t all bad. Just think how many people obsessively watch Law and Order. It’s got to be the most endlessly rerun TV show of the past fifteen years, especially if you figure in all the various spin-offs. (And yes: many of the most addicted viewers out there are lawyers themselves, but not a majority, probably not even a plurality.) 

Ordinary people often do see (some) lawyers as heroes. They stand up for the disenfranchised, fight the powers that be, and ensure that justice is carried out as faithfully as possible. As ancient a pedigree as the lawyer jokes have (everyone remembers Shakespeare’s quote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”), we have also always admired those who fought, by persuasion and reason and research, for the betterment of society. In real life, for instance, we have the dignity of Cicero to look up to, the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, the brave dedication of Thurgood Marshall. In the fictional realm, mythic figures linger in the unconscious of every potential client, shaping their ideal view of what a lawyer should be. Here are a few of those characters and the values they embody:

Character: Atticus Finch

Source: To Kill A Mockingbird

Prime Attribute: Decency

Certainly the greatest and most beloved lawyer in American culture, Atticus Finch is certainly the hero of Harper Lee’s novel and Robert Mulligan’s film (both canonical in their respective media). But he is, importantly, not the protagonist. As praiseworthy as his defense of a wrongly accused black man is, it’s the family aspect that lifts the story from a didactic political drama to classic status. We see him through the eyes of his own daughter Scout, and therefore he is a comforting, rock-solid presence. This cuts through the most negative stereotype about lawyers: people don’t trust them.

Character: Perry Mason

Source: Perry Mason

Prime Attribute: Acuity

Perry Mason was the star of a pulp novel series, then a radio show, then an endlessly-syndicated TV show with Raymond Burr. The plot was formulaic: Perry defends a murder suspect with the evidence stacked against them, but manages to unravel the case and cause the real murderer to break down on the witness stand. Repetitive, implausible...and irresistible. Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, now of the Supreme Court, testified in her Senate confirmation hearing that Perry Mason inspired her as a young girl to become a lawyer. Every client wants a lawyer like sharp-eyed, unflappable Raymond Burr, who will focus like a laser on their case and blow it wide open. 

Character: Vincent “Vinny” Gambini

Source: My Cousin Vinny

Attribute: Relatability

Joe Pesci’s wisecracking, questionably-credentialed New York attorney comes to the rescue of his cousin wrongfully accused of murder in a suddenly not-so-hospitable South. If you’re a lawyer, you’ve probably seen this excellent 1992 comedy, and if not, get on it (it was written by a lawyer and is renowned for its fairly impressive accuracy, even being used as a teaching tool in law schools). The great thing about it is that the abrasive Yankee eventually proves so lovable to the instinctively suspicious Southerners, even the judge (played by Fred Gwynne of Munsters fame in his last role). He’s not a great mind, or a perfect hero, yet he wins not only the case but the hearts and minds of those around him, through sheer devotion, frankness, and authenticity.

These intangibles may sound too fuzzy to work with, but they’re absolutely crucial for you to consider when you’re crafting a marketing image for your firm. These works of storytelling offer us examples of how we can create those feelings in the minds of clients and inform the way the public thinks about the practice of law. You could do worse than to take a page from the great attorney-heroes of literature and film.

Nadia Jones is a full-time education blogger based in Houston, Texas. Interested in all things academia, Nadia frequently writes at onlinecollege.org for those interested in the realm of online education. For questions and comments reach her at nadia.jones5@gmail.com.



Attorney Association Declares Love of Law Firm Marketing

law firm marketing, legal marketing, business developmentA virtual association of law firm managing partners announced today that they would now market their practices and sell new business without complaining.

"I'm tired of so-called 'real work,'" said one partner attending a CRM workshop. "I want to put in some non-billable time updating my contact list." Several other prominent law partners couldn't comment because they had to rush out to meet potential clients face-to-face.

"I don't know what we were thinking all these years," said Ahmjust Kidinya, the president of the Lawyers who Love Marketing (LLM). "We could have been having wine and steaks while deepening personal relationships, instead of writing motions to compel." His firm just sent 15 partners to a website design class at Art Institute of Chicago.

After touching up his firm bio and LinkedIn profile, Society founder Howya Doone was busy writing a handwritten note to a client. "Maybe I should call him to ask him how he feels about his matter," Doone pondered. "I need empathize with his sense of urgency."

Attorney Glaad DeMietcha had just returned from personality rehab was examining his new business cards with QR codes. "I added my Twitter handle and Facebook page too," he said, "because there's nothing I like better than networking at a trade association meeting." An associate law professor, he teaches a class on commenting on blogs.

Celebrating the first day of April, the Society issued a proclamation saying, "We love marketing so much, we wish we could marry it." At the headquarters in Atlantis, the Society bestowed its scholarship for Details in Event Invitations. Ironically, the winner could not be present because she was conducting a listening campaign at a client's premises. "I love marketing," she said, "because it involves giving my time away for free."


Social Media Explained

Hat tip to David Gilroy of conscious.co.uk for this enlightening list.


"The Office" meets Law Practice in "The Bottom Rung" Comedy

Matt Ritter, bitter lawyer, the bottom rung, comedy video seriresImagine a law firm where:

  • A supervisor like a drill sergeant calls associates "little maggots" and bellows, "no cells phones, no Internet, no chit-chat and no eye contact" during work.
  • Jaime, the cute blond associate who sings in the bathroom, walks out and meets a male associate with his zipper down. He can explain.
  • Nick, an associate up to his eyeballs in files, meets weeping colleagues in the hallway who have been laid off. In his own review he's searched for weapons because a fellow associate called security on him for joking that he wanted to kill the managing partner.
  • Red-headed associate Tim says, "Yep, obviously I'm Irish. Does that mean I have to drink excessively and have heated arguments with my girlfriend over trivial matters? Yes I do."

It's from The Bottom Rung, an online web show that is a humorous take on document review hell. Created by lawyer and comedian Matt Ritter, the show brings the dysfunction of the TV show "The Office" to a law firm where second-tier lawyers toil in a basement. Episode One and Two are online now and they cracked me up.

"I created The Bottom Rung out of my own experience doing document review in Los Angeles," says creator Ritter. "Until I moved out to LA in 2010, I worked as a big firm corporate associate in New York and had never heard of document review. A former lawyer and TV writer told me that if I was short on cash, document review was an easy way to earn a stress-free paycheck, allowing me to focus on my comedy work."

The reality was nightmare bosses, no windows, no ventilation, no personal space, sick people everywhere and no running water. "During the entire season I am highlighting the doc review characters and the world of some of these darker document review projects. It’s all loosely based on the places I’ve been assigned and the people that I’ve met on some of the more hellish projects," he says.

Check out Episode One below.



Video: I am the Best Super Lawyer, Dammit!

Want a taste of what it's like to be a law firm marketer? Experience the joys of working with blockheaded partners who are more concerned with being in the Sunday newspaper magazine that their neighbors read than speaking engagements that will actually generate new business. Can you tell that an exasperated law firm marketer wrote this based on their actual experience?

Hat tip to Heather Morse of the Legal Watercooler Blog for finding this.


Personalized Lawyer Cartoons - A Perfect Gift

Top Dawg, lawyer cartoonsWith the holidays upon us, what gift do you get for your favorite law grad, partner or associate?  To bring a smile to their faces give them a funny drawing featuring the lawyer's name at www.yournameherecartoons.com.  Lawyer Laughs lets you choose the person’s name (or law firm name) to be inserted into the cartoon caption.

Every personalized cartoon is reproduced with an archival process called giclée printing, which is French for "spraying of ink." This creates precise coloring and razor-sharp detailing, and has become the benchmark for fine art reproduction. The combination of HP Premium Photo Plus paper and HP Vivera dye-based inks produce exceptionally fade resistant, consistent vibrant color images, rivaling traditional photo processing of up to 100 years. Every cartoon is personally signed by the artist, Richard Stergulz.

Other cartoons include giant cats, jurors being like Olympic judges holding up "10" cards for a superb closing argument, and faces on Mt. Rushmore. The cost is $75 per drawing.


Hilariously Awful Lawyer Video: Exploding Car, Flames and Law

Don't live with pain, disfigurement, disability, scars, broken bones, burns, paralysis or permanent injury. Berger & Green will get what's yours! A exploding car on fire!  (Somebody must have critiqued this video. Visit the firm's website and you'll see the current soothing and calming videos).


Government Launches Spy Agency to Secretly Track Activities of Americans

Evil Santa ClausI was sitting in my study, reading Wikileaks to catch up on what our government was up to. To my horror I discovered a clear and present danger to our privacy as citizens, an incredible government program to spy on Americans, harvest and collect the information, and deliver consequences -- some really dreadful consequences. It involved having a terrorist spy run the government program.

The description was redacted, but here's what I made out:

  • The spymaster can see you when you're sleeping.
  • He knows when you're awake and monitors your activities.
  • He knows if you've been "bad" or "good" according to some undefined standards.

This goes waaaay beyond stoplight cameras that issue traffic tickets, or food stores monitoring what you eat when you swipe your store card, or a GPS program that can tell exactly where you are.

Code named the S@ЙT@ program, it involved doling out rewards and punishments without any right to due process or equal protection.  The head of the agency is obese, so he's definitely an American.  He wore red garb so he was probably a Communist.

I called up my local Tea Party leader, who had already informed me about FEMA concentration camps, impending 'door-to-door' gun confiscations and that 9/11 was a government plot. And he knew all about the S@ЙT@ program. He whispered fearfully, "So be good for goodness sake!


13 Internet Slangs with Unexpected Alternate Meanings

Thanks to Mashable for these ineffable internet homonyms. You may have thought you were using a three-letter acronym to say something simple, but it turns out to have a secondary meaning that you didn't intend.

 You wrote But it also means
LOL: laughing out loud Little old lady, shorthand used by doctors.

BRB: be right back

Big Red Button, an important, non-descript button associated with a power, reset, detonation, self-destruction, emergency shut-down, or ejection switch.
IDK: I don't know “Ident-A-Kid,” the largest child-identification program in the United States.
BFF: best friends forever Binary File Format, a procedure for storing computer files encoded in binary code.
OMG: Oh my God! Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. One of the most notorious OMGs in America is the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, founded in 1935.
PLZ: please

Known in aviation as the airport code for the Port Elizabeth Airport in South Africa, which recently saw increased traffic due to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

CYA: see ya

Cover your ass
BTW: by the way British Traditional Wicca, the Neo-Pagan religion Wicca that has origins in the New Forest area of England.
FML: F*ck My Life, a popular site for telling screwed up life stories Family and Medical Leave
DOS: disk operating system Dreaded Orange Spots, which have been plaguing soap-makers for ages, and apparently no one really knows why they show up
ROFL: rolling on the floor laughing Clan 52 of Medievia, better known as “Rogues Of the Forbidden Legion.
THX: thanks THX sound system, created by Tomlinson Holman for the third Star Wars film, to ensure optimal sound quality.
 BC: because  Before Christ

Five of the funniest web URLs

There are dozens of poorly thought out web addresses, largely from companies who naively slurred their innocent-sounding names into a single word without noticing the resulting double entendres.

One example of what can go wrong when choosing web addresses is Big Al's bowling alley in Vancouver, which presumably did not notice when naming its site that "I love Big Al's" with spaces removed could equally be read as "I love bi gals".

Andy Geldman, author of Slurls: They Called Their Website What? said, "In a world without spaces we mentally insert out own. And you might not stick yours where I stick mine."

Among the 150 web pages featuring in the book are Pen Island's home page, www.penisland.net, and Les Bocages, a British firm of tree surgeons working in France who are named after the French word for "groves" but also have the unfortunate web moniker "lesbocages".

The potential for amusement has also led to a number of spoofs, notably the website purporting to be the Italian home page for energy company Powergen – powergenitalia – which is really unaffiliated with the company.

For the firms affected, however, the errors are not always taken lightly. A spokesman for Choose Spain, a holiday company found at choosespain.com, told the Sunday Times: "It was too late to change it once we realized."  ("Chooses pain")

Experts Exchange – a site where programmers can trade advice – is found at www.expertsexchange.com

La Drape – a British company selling high-end quilted bedspreads – is listed at www.ladrape.co.uk

American Scrap Metal – a scrap metal recycling firm – has its website at www.angelfire.com/alt/americanscrapmetal  ("Americans Crap Metal")

Speed of Art – a collective or art designers – are online at www.speedofart.com

Therapist Finder – a directory for therapy services – can be located at www.therapistfinder.com

Have you got any more? Submit a comment please!