Life is short. Get a Divorce. [big]
The legal profession’s Dignity Police are scandalized again. This time their focus is the billboard [tiny image above; click for large version in color] that went up on May 1st in Chicago for the “boutique” divorce law firm Fetman Garland & Associates. Besides showing teats-n-abs, the advertisement sports the slogan “Life is short. Get a Divorce.” (via Robert Ambrogi at LegalBlogWatch, “The Beefcake Approach to Marketing,” May 9, 2007, and Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Blog, “Using T&A” to sell Divorce) An outraged Chicago alderman has already had the billboard torn down (video), saying the necessary permit had never been obtained. Of course, I’m more interested in the legal community’s response. An ABC News report quotes John Ducanto, past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers:
“It’s grotesque. It’s totally undignified and offensive.”
According to ABC News:
“Ducanto called on the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee of Supreme Court of Illinois to sanction Fetman. “I don’t think they’ll just let this pass,” said Ducanto, who seemed genuinely hurt by the ad. “I have been in practice for 52 years, and I’ve worked my ass off to change the image of this particular area of the legal practice, and to see some punk try and pervert the whole image in the interest of lucre. … Sure, she’s got a lot of attention, but it’s like a guy who spits on a table — you got the attention, sure, but what kind of attention is it?”
Happily, the same news report added: “But the ARDC’s deputy administrator James Grogan told ABC News that traditionally Illinois has been reluctant to sanction lawyers for anything short of false or misleading advertising.” We shall see whether pressure makes the Grievance Committee decide it has to take action against the Fetman firm As might be expected, Karen Enright, president-elect of the Women’s Bar of Illinois, agreed with Ducanto, saying “It’s actually a disappointment to the profession and to the institution of marriage, which is something our community holds as sacred.” Enright added:
“Our profession, and lawyers in general, have been under attack for advertisements similar to this and I think,” she said, pausing. “I think that it’s not in good taste.”
I was amused and disappointed to see that famous divorce lawyer Raoul Felder — who was recented defended here at f/k/a against New York’s Dignity Police, who want his hide for writing the book Schmucks — said the ad was a new low for the profession:
“This has to be the Academy Award of bad taste,” Felder told ABC News. Fetman is “not your run-of-the-mill Perry Mason lawyer,” he opined. “Hell, that’s not even ‘L.A. Law.’ It’s bizarre,” he said. “I don’t think anybody walks away from that ad thinking more of the legal profession that they did before they saw it.”
The billboard’s sponsor, saucy Corrie D. Fetman had a fitting response to the critics. ABC News explains:
But Fetman defends the billboard, almost gleefully. Recycling popular catch phrases seems to come naturally to her. “Lawyers don’t cause divorces. People cause divorces,” she said. “If you think somebody’s going to look at a billboard and go out and get a divorce as a result, you’re insulting the intelligence of people. If that’s the case, our next billboard is going to read, ‘Gimme Your Money.'”
Fetman had, in fact, issued a press release the day before the billboard went up, touting the new ad campaign. Excerpts:
“Our “Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.” advertising campaign . . . is true to who we are, namely Aggressive, Non-Judgmental and Strategic. The ad portrays what we believe which is that everyone deserves happiness. In short, we believe that life is too short to stay stuck in an unhappy marriage.”
“The future of our ad campaign will also include other marketing tactics centered on the promotion of happiness without judgment.”
“We think our advertising is fantastic and innovative and look forward to hearing your opinion.”
Clicking around the Fetman Garland website, I discovered that Fetman was featured in a Chicago Tribune article in 2003 about women coping with the male environment at big law firms — by starting their own firms. “Leaving is the Best Way of Achieving,” Aug. 13, 2003. It is worth clicking this link just to see the photo of Fetman and Lady Justice. The article notes:
“A man also answers the phone at Corri Fetman’s Chicago Women at Law Ltd., a matrimonial law firm she started in 1995, after practicing law at several firms. She left the last one, she said, because she experienced sexual harassment, salary inequities, and what she described as a demeaning environment. In contrast, she said she tries to create a comfortable environment for her two female associates and two male paralegal/secretarial workers.”
It seems to me that life is far too short for scare and underutilized lawyer discipline resouces to be used to shore up the profession’s image. Some quick thoughts:
- As stated repeatedly here, it is the self-important, self-appointed role of Dignity Police that makes the profession look bad in the public’s eyes — Americans do not like hypocrisy and putting on airs. (see our prior post) They also really dislike having their intelligence underestimated.
- Americans have the right to a divorce and lawyers have the right to remind the public of the availability of the law and their services. If we are going to start telling lawyers they may not promote the use of certain legal rights that are deemed antisocial, I’ve got a few other places to start.
- A profession that gives you the next lawyer’s name on the list, when you call a Lawyer Referral Service, has no place telling lawyers in good standing with the bar what factors are deemed “relevant” in a client’s selection of a lawyer.
- The public can’t tell much at all about the quality of a law firm from its ads (nor from an interview at a firm). But, it can at least learn a bit about a law firm’s style and attitude from the ads it chooses to run. Some people will be attracted to the Fetman ad and others repulsed. That’s a lot more info than we get by pictures of Lady Liberty and the scales of justice in stock lawyer ads.
Life is indeed too short. The Dignity Police need to get a life. If they truly care about the profession’s image (not to mention the interests of their clients), they should concentrate on their own competence, diligence, service, commitment, and integrity.
Possibly-Related Inadvertent Searchee Adventures: Search engines pointed their querists to f/k/a this past week thousands of times, but here are a few I found amusing or bemusing (and even strikingly relevant to this posting):
- Speaking of dignity, our presentation of Pape & Chandler’s defense of their pit bull logo was the #3 result in a search on Google for /logo representing dignity/. [the first results two related to gay pride Dignity Day]
- Whoever was looking to learn about /abstinence after marriage/ was probably led astray by our blurb on teens using Clintonian loopholes when promising to abstain. Google made that post its #2 result, when we mentioned poor St. Joseph, who we dubbed the Patron Saint of Involuntary Celibates.
- Someone Googled /specious and example/ and the #1 result was a posting about irresponsible bar advocates in Massachusetts.
- Another searcher wanted /churchill liberal heart brain/ and the #2 Google result, out of almost 400,000 was our piece asking “did Churchill coin that over-30 maxim?“. We hope the quest brought our visitor to f/k/a’s 21st Century rewrite on political maturation over age 30.
- A budding linguist Googled “greek word for dog” and clicked on the #2 result — our explanation that the word “cynic” comes from the Greek word for dog [”kunos”].
- Sadly, we only came in 4th (out of more than a million results) in the Google query /are lawyers, liars/. Let’s hope the visitor was duly edified by our look at the subject, which included a discussion of the Bar’s scandalous misinformation about Shakespeare’s quote on killing all the lawyers.
Thanks to arts patron (and haijin extraordinaire) Roberta Beary, I came into possession this week of big sky: The Red Moon Anthology 2006 (Jim Kacian, Editor in Chief, Red Moon Press, 2007). The RMA series “is a celebration of the best haiku and related work published in English around the world each calendar year.” It contains “Nearly 200 works of haiku, haibun, renku, criticism and analysis.” There is a rigorous process and a board of distinguished editors who make the selections, and it is an honor to have even one poem included in the Anthology. f/k/a‘s Honored Guest Poets can be found throughout each edition of RMA. Each year, only a handful of especially fine poets have three of their haiku chosen for RMA. This year, almost all of the haijin with three poems in big sky happen to be among our Honored Guests — allowing me to share their poems with you.
I’m most pleased, therefore, to present the chosen works from big sky: The Red Moon Anthology 2006, of w.f. owen, John Stevenson and Yu Chang. To help soothe dagosan‘s unselected ego, John and Yu allowed him to win a game of bocce this afternoon at Schenectady’s lovely Central Park. dagosan is still hoping that John and Yu’s poetic muses will occasionally visit him.
the children divide
the farmer gives directions
in the dirt
checking the balance
of a new hammer
…….. by w.f. owen from Big Sky: RMA 2006
“unstrung pearls” – Modern Haiku 37:2
“city folks” – Shiki Kukai January 2006
“early spring” – Mariposa 14
an old friend empties
my wine glass
my accents starts
are you sure
we are alone
……… by yu chang
“small town” – Frogpond XXIX:1
“Christmas party” – Upstate Dim Sum 2006/1
“starlit sky” – The Heron’s Nest VIII:2
a moment of hestitation
I know for a fact
the bottle’s half empty
she tells the whole story
in a single breath
……… by John Stevenson
“midnight sun” – Modern Haiku 37:3
“almost spring” – The Heron’s Nest VIII:3
“cold moon” – The Heron’s Nest VIII:4
Finally, I’m happy to see that the governor of Washington State signed the nation’s first ban on driving while texting this week. “Hands on the Wheel, Not on the Blackberry Keys,” New York TImes, May 12, 2007. It is a little discouraging, though, to read that states taking action against phoning while driving are still only banning held-held cellphones. Listen up, legislators: The problem is having too much attention on the phone call, not having only one hand on the wheel.