Androvett Legal Media and Marketing
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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 1:44:00 pm

As the business world shakes off a long holiday season, the start of the New Year presents an ideal time to look forward, and reevaluate business and marketing goals. That starts broadly, not only with assessing goals and competitive positioning, but also important tasks such as ensuring that a firm's website operates properly on all mobile devices with fresh and relevant content. 

"It's easy for busy firms to forget about these details, but a stale or outdated website does not create a good first impression," says Androvett Legal Media & Marketing founder Mike Androvett. "Businesses should regularly reevaluate changing business trends, positioning and visibility within the market. That doesn't have to be complicated; it starts with a disciplined and thoughtful approach." Androvett Legal Media has created a white paper outlining strategies for refreshing firm marketing materials and business development plans in 2014.

by Amy Hunt at 11:40:00 am

Defense wins never seem to get the media love that is regularly devoted to big plaintiff victories, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t every bit as notable or important to those who win them. The latest Androvett White Paper, “Marketing Your Law Firm’s Defense Practice: Just Because Nobody Won Any Money Doesn’t Mean ‘Nothing Happened,’” offers advice on how lawyers who bring home defense wins can market their practices and generate that client-developing buzz every lawyer craves.


Marketing a defense practice isn’t impossible, but it does require a willingness to seek publicity, occasionally speak to the media, and generally take on a higher public profile than many defense lawyers are comfortable doing. It may also mean spending some time with clients to help educate them on the benefits of dealing with the media in times of crisis.


But these are not insurmountable challenges — at least they shouldn’t be.


To download “Marketing Your Law Firm’s Defense Practice,” click here.

by Dave Moore at 9:34:07 am

Many trial lawyers try their best to be animated in the courtroom. Houston trial attorney John Kim, however, has taken the step of being animated on his own website (shown here at With assistance from the creative team at Androvett Legal Media & Marketing, Kim has cast himself in an animated short in which a cartoon artist captures his essence based on peer descriptions of his style and reputation. It’s the kind of lively approach to the world that we’ve come to expect from this talented business litigation attorney.

“Most lawyer ads . . . well they’re lawyer ads,” Kim said about the production. “I wanted something that was like me – quirky and entertaining, but not too obnoxious.”

We could go on and on about this video, but it really speaks well for itself.

by client-news at 11:23:13 am

The award-winning team of media and advertising professionals at Androvett Legal Media & Marketing has developed a list of seven simple and effective ways to take your website from bland to grand.

Whether you're creating a new website from scratch or simply updating your existing site, these seven essential steps can make your website more interesting, effective and relevant. For a more detailed discussion, visit the related white paper.

1. Make it Easy to Find

When it comes to online search, your goal should be simple: Have a website that’s easy for your potential and existing clients to find and read. It’s not about having a site solely focused around SEO (Search Engine Optimization); it’s about building a search-friendly architecture and providing targeted and relevant content.

2. Make it Easy to Navigate

Developing an intuitive and well-thought-out site map from the beginning allows you to direct how users travel your site and ensures they are able to quickly get where they want to be.

3. Write for Your Audience, Not Yourself

What information is going to be most important to someone who needs to hire a lawyer? They’ll likely want to know about your relevant experience, your fees and perhaps most important: What separates you from the many other lawyers and law firms who practice in the same area of law?

4. Update Your Content - Regularly

Your website doesn’t need an entire facelift every two months, but regularly adding interesting news stories, blog entries and case summaries, and refreshing your homepage and attorney bios at least twice a year will keep your content fresh and stimulate traffic to your site. Updating your content regularly also enhances search engine optimization.

5. Start a Blog and Stick With It

A blog can go a long way in positioning you as a leading expert sought for insights and information by new clients, colleagues and even the media. The key to any successful blog is providing valuable content, or more specifically, content that is unique and useful to your audience. One of the greatest advantages of a blog is that it ensures you are continually creating new content for your site, making it more “findable” (see point 4).

6. Share and Be Shared

Creating social media accounts and republishing your blog posts, new stories and other quality content can incite a social discussion that allows you to reach far beyond your website. Another effective technique is adding a “Social Media Bookmarking” widget to your site that allows readers to share information they find valuable directly with their social media accounts through the click of a button.

7. Go Mobile or Go Home

The web is accessible at all times on mobile devices such as iPhones and smartphones; having a parallel version of your site optimized for mobile viewing is now a requirement rather than an “add-on.” Whether users are reading attorney profiles, getting directions to your office or simply trying to call you, they want it in their hands and on the go.

by Erin Dooley at 4:44:02 pm

We all know about Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame, but in this rapidly changing media environment there’s a component to the 24/7 news cycle and multiplying social media platforms that can be terrifying to businesses. After all, a contentious lawsuit, a misguided communication, or a particularly vehement onslaught of client complaints can clog the gears of any business, bringing the usually well-oiled company machine to a grinding halt and—perhaps even worse— ruining the company’s reputation.

A new Androvett Legal Media & Marketing white paper, “The Lawyer’s Role in the Company Crisis,” provides a broad overview to help law firms prepare for and deal with a public relations crisis.

In the paper, Androvett Legal Media’s Mike Androvett, Mark Annick and Mary Flood describe key considerations that firms should review before a crisis occurs. The white paper addresses basics such as assembling a crisis team, identifying key stakeholders, designating spokespeople, crafting an honest, comprehensive message and, where appropriate, gracefully admitting guilt. To that end, it includes a list of questions all response messages must answer, including “What impact does this have on the customer?” and “What is the company doing to ensure this never happens again?”

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, a company easily can become a punch line overnight, even if eventually it wins in court. Said another way, the value lost in diminished reputation may far outweigh the cost of litigation…There should be an emphasis on speed, clarity and truth-telling, even in the face of negative publicity. Although the facts may be against you, many companies learn a painful lesson when they try to run away from bad news or, worse, fudge the facts.

“The Lawyer’s Role in the Company Crisis” also fiercely attacks the ‘no comment’ tactic taken by so many businesses today.  “The tension between the lawyerly instinct to stay mum in anticipation of litigation, and the need to speak candidly internally and externally to soothe and reassure stakeholders is a classic tug of war in many crisis situations.”

The paper underscores the essential irony of crisis communications that many learn only after it’s too late: companies are often punished more for how they mishandle a crisis than for the crisis itself.

Click here to read “The Lawyer’s Role in the Company Crisis.”



by Robert Tharp at 1:55:40 pm

Stale websites. Unrealized social media plans. Firm news that falls on deaf ears. May the law firm with the perfect marketing plan cast the first stone. 

For all the rest, the new year offers a chance to wipe the slate clean, step back and take a broad look at marketing plans for year ahead. To that end, Androvett Legal Media & Marketing has created “Legal 11 for 2011,” a practical marketing checklist. 

The idea behind “Legal 11 for 2011” is to begin the year right by putting a firm's marketing house in order. There’s a raft of ideas for optimizing a firm’s Internet presence such as refreshing online bios and photos(No. 2) and promoting the firm’s good work online(No. 1). Search Engine Optimization(No. 5) starts with identifying the keywords that potential clients will use to find you on the Internet, and then using those keywords to build an online presence. Coming in at No. 7 is the reminder that social media networks are not going away and there is a variety of ways to engage social media ethically and effectively.

The “Legal 11 for 2011” also includes old-school axioms like taking stock of your competition(No. 10), cleaning up client contact lists(No. 8) and evaluating brochures(No. 9). Perhaps No. 11 is the most valuable takeaway, a reminder that you’ve got to have goals in order to achieve them. Commit the goals to writing. When relevant and necessary, get expert help to achieve your goals and objectives. View the entire list here.

by Robert Tharp at 9:09:48 am

As a reporter, Mary Flood utilized a rare combination of talents to become one of Texas’ most respected legal writers. She was a seasoned Houston Post newspaper reporter before she decided to go to law school – graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School, no less. Mary practiced law in the Washington, D.C., offices of Morrison & Foerster, and as a solo plaintiff’s attorney in Houston before she returned to journalism. She worked for The Wall Street Journal’s Texas Journal and most recently the Houston Chronicle. Flood also taught Media Law & Ethics at the University of Houston for several years while working as a reporter. 

Covering the legal beat, including the business of law, for the Chronicle, Mary developed an enviable network of sources – from judges to clerks, solos to large firms and everyone in between – and led the Chronicle’s award-winning legal coverage of the Enron scandal. She covered hundreds of trials and penned a Chronicle blog and a hard-copy column about the legal business. NPR listeners came to know Mary as the regular guest analyst who could break down the complexities of the Enron scandal in a way that common folks could understand.

Androvett Legal Media & Marketing is proud to welcome Mary to its Houston office, where she will use her news judgment and knowledge of the Texas legal landscape to help lawyers and their clients frame litigation issues and handle crisis communications and mount effective public relations, marketing and advertising campaigns.

“We’ve worked with Mary as a reporter for many, many years,” says Mike Androvett, founder and President of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing. “She is a tough journalist who always asks the hard questions and leaves no stone unturned. She’s exactly the kind of reporter we prepare our clients for, so she’s the first person we thought of to help grow our Houston office.”

by Robert Tharp at 2:45:16 pm

A couple of recent studies confirm what many of us already suspected about the reach and heft of the Internet as a news and communication medium.

First off, the influence of online news spiked sharply in 2008. According to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, the percentage of Americans getting their news online jumped from 24 percent to 40 percent in this year. And for the first time, more Americans are relying on the Internet for their information needs than

traditional print media.

For the under 30 crowd, the Internet now rivals TV as an information source. Nearly 60 percent of respondents under 30 use the Internet as a primary information source. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%).

In an unrelated study by MS&L, researchers polled consumers worldwide with the question, "what defines a leading company?" More than half of the respondents in the U.S. indicated that they could judge a company's values by its online presence. Another finding: while price and quality are important, consumers believe that a company's values matter most in the long run. The findings are further proof that businesses of all types should be focusing on their on-line presence AND communicating their values in the digital medium. As Sally Falkow at The Leading Edge puts it: "If more than half of [consumers] judge you by your online presence, it's time to make that a PR priority."

by Robert Tharp at 3:34:41 pm

The Bernard Madoff financial fraud has been called the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Whatever you call it, this complex and rapidly evolving story has presented challenges for the mainstream and financial media around the globe. Securities fraud attorneys Jeffrey Zwerling and Robert Schachter at the New York securities c
lass-action law firm Zwerling Schachter & Zwerling quickly became part of the reporting and have been involved in much of the expert commentary, providing the kind of intelligent and nuanced insight needed to cover this amazing and complicated financial story. The two attorneys, who have extensive experience in such complex securities cases, have been quoted in reports by the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The Independent, The Financial Post and Reuters, among many others. The two firm partners have used their expertise in complex securities class-actions to describe the regulatory landscape, current investigations and possible recourse that Madoff's victims may have.

by Robert Tharp at 11:57:36 am

Who isn’t conflicted by all of the lawyer rankings out there? There’s so many of these lists now that it’s just about impossible to keep up with them all. At the end

of the day, Super Lawyers has emerged as one of the most respected of the gang, in part because the staff does a good job of articulating its selection criteria and takes pains to make the list more than a popularity contest. With the Texas Super Lawyers balloting set to begin in February, we soldiered through a recent Super Lawyers webinar and 64-slide PowerPoint presentation so you don’t have to. Below are some of the highlights of the webinar, which was designed to demystify the selection process a little. For 2009, Texas Super Lawyers balloting starts February 6 and closes March 10.

I  Peer Nominations: As we know, the research staff monitors to make sure there’s not too much mutual backscratching. Additionally, to keep everything on a level playing field between big and small firms, the staff stops counting after a single attorney obtains 15 nominations(i.e. it’s pointless to get more than 15 votes). Additionally: Nominations should be based on first-hand observation. Self-nominations are not allowed. In-firm nominations count only if an equal or greater number of out-of-firm nominations are cast. Out-of-firm nominations carry a higher point value.
Informal nominations: The staff also welcomes informal nominations from people like us. These nominations have no point value, but it puts the candidate on the Super Lawyers radar.
Managing partner survey: Every managing partner of a law firm that’s on the SL data base receives an e-mail survey asking them to nominate the top 10 percent within their firm. The results of these surveys are not publicized.
Somebody in the audience asked whether the managing partners should bother nominating attorneys who have previously been named Super Lawyers, or instead use this as a vehicle to help others get on this list. The answer was that you should not assume that previous winners will automatically be on their radar, so nominate attorneys who most deserve to be on the list.
Other ways to get in the candidate pool: Besides peer nominations, informal nominations and the managing partner survey: SL researchers conduct a `star search’ designed to identify lawyers who might be overlooked by the balloting, such as lawyers with national litigation practices, lawyers in smaller firms or lawyers in less visible practice areas. For this reason, it pays to have a strong internet presence.
II  Once the candidate pool has been established: The SL research department begins culling through the candidate pool. This step is designed to keep the rankings from being solely a popularity contest. Evaluation is based on: verdicts and settlements, transactions, representative clients, experience, honors and awards, special licenses and certifications, position within law firm, bar or other professional activities, pro bono and community service, scholarly lectures and writings, education and employment background and other outstanding achievements.
SL database links directly with law firm Web site biographies and to lawyers’ records compiled by Westlaw’s `Profiler’ system, such as verdicts, dockets etc… For this reason, it’s crucial that law firm Web site bios are complete and up-to-date. This Web site provides attorneys an opportunity to update their professional profiles and describe their practice. Make sure this profile page is complete and current.
Blue-ribbon evaluation: Peer evaluation is conducted in nearly 70 practice areas. The groups assign a 1-to-10 score to each candidate. Candidates are then assembled by firm size so that small, medium and large firms compete against themselves.
Vetting: Finalists are researched to make sure they are in good standing with no disciplinary problems. Candidates are also asked to personally verify their disciplinary history.
From there, Super Lawyers finalists are selected equally among small, medium and large firms until the list reaches 5 percent of practicing attorneys.

Super Lawyers contacts:
Research: Cindy Larson
Editorial: Steve Kaplan


by Robert Tharp at 2:04:44 pm

Can a lawyer inflate fees for obtaining an extraorindary result? What's the latest CLE event for appellate lawyers? These are just some of the topics up for discussion on a new blog about Texas appellate law by attorneys at Dallas-based Cowles & Thompson, P.C.. The firm's distinguished appellate practice group started the Reverse & Render blog to provide timely information and insight on significant appellate cases and other useful information. The blogging team was created by Byron Henry, certified as an appellate specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Contributers include Mike Northrup, head of the firm's appellate practice and chair of the Dallas Bar Association's Appellate Law Section, and attorney David Oliveros.

by Robert Tharp at 1:50:46 pm

Citizen journalists using blogs, Twitter posts and the myriad other social networking mediums are growing like crazy, and so are the number of libel and defamation
lawsuits against those who think such laws only apply to the media big boys. Already, juries have returned multi-million dollar verdicts over disparaging Internet postings by amatuer bloggers, and the risk continues to grow as everyone from CEOs to rank-and-file employees continue to jump into the online media mix. Some insurers now offer "cyber risk" polices to protect bloggers from such claims, and insurance expert and award-winning blogger DAVID WHITE says such insurance is something that bloggers should consider. "Anyone publishing online exposes himself to legal liability," says White, an attorney in the Dallas offices of Thompson & Knight. "Bloggers are not immune to defamation or copyright violation claims and should carefully assess both the content of their postings and their liability insurance coverage. Most corporate insurance and D&O policies exclude cyberrisks from traditional coverage." White's own blog recently was named among the Top 50 Blogs for Insurance by LexisNexis. To interview Mr. White, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or  


by Robert Tharp at 12:46:29 pm

Schlepping the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan to an angry electorate would be a chore for even the most capable p.r. maestro. By most accounts, Henry Paulson was hardly up for the p.r. job of connecting with the American people. Time has an insightful analysis of the p.r. missteps that failed to inspire the public and no-doubt led to the plan's initial defeat. The Time

piece is dead-on. Shoot, this is stuff any good trial attorney knows about explaining complex arguments to regular folks, things like making sure your message is specific and easily understood, personal, accurate and targeted.

The Time piece offers some suggestions to resell the bailout, including: Find a face: Human beings are not moved by numbers or by vague predictions of certain doom. They are moved by stories. "It's simple," says Dennis Mileti, an expert on risk communications who has studied hundreds of disasters of the more conventional kind at the University of Colorado. "You get one family in America. You go to their house. And you paint a picture of what their life is like one year from now. You describe a kid who can't go to college, the house that can't be sold, the inability of anyone to use a credit card. They need to get a camera crew and go to Omaha and find a family."
Rebrand the Bill: The phrase "bailout" is a deal-killer. "People feel the breaks are being given to financial institutions and not to the consumer," says Slovic. He recommends "Consumer Protection Act." It may be too late for this change to have much impact, but any change in language that acknowledges real people would be an improvement.
Shoot the Messenger: If you want people to support the radical idea of rescuing rich investment bankers, don't send a rich, former investment banker (Henry Paulson) to convince them. And don't send a discredited, lame duck President, either. As in normal life, people are more likely to believe the advice of someone they trust. There aren't many well-known experts in this field who aren't rich, but even Warren Buffet would have brought less baggage to the process than George Bush.
Be Specific: People need to know what will happen if they do nothing - or if they do something.


by Robert Tharp at 2:31:57 pm

When Dallas attorney James Craig Orr walked away with a $1.5 million verdict Tuesday on behalf of two Austin men who were seriously injured when an 18-wheeler crashed into their car, trucking company Celadon Trucking sought to mitigate the court loss with the following public statement: Celadon does not hire trainee drivers,

and has a very high safety standard relating to its drivers. We have won numerous national and regional safety awards. We are reviewing the jury verdict, and are considering our options regarding an appeal of the decision.

The Indianapolis Star, Celadon's home-town paper, faithfully included the company's statement in an Associated Press story of the court verdict secured by Dallas-based law firm  Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei. That's great, but we wonder how long it took the reporter to find this this contradictory tidbit in the very next paragraph that casts a little doubt on that sincerity of Celadon's response: In 2005, Celadon Trucking agreed to pay $1.25 million to the parents of a soldier who died when his car rear-ended a tractor-trailer that stalled along a Texas highway in 2002 after its brake hose failed. The husband-wife truck driving team in that case had tried to repair a high-pressure brake hose with a toothpick wrapped with tape.

The lesson for everyone: don't assume reporters will swallow your statement without a little fact-checking.

by Robert Tharp at 11:02:40 am

MS Legal's Stacy Humphries: In-house experience increasingly helpful in job searches
Once upon a time, attorneys who left law firms for jobs as in-house counsel for companies and corporations did so with the understanding that they might have a difficult
time returning to law firm life. As the financial crisis ripples through the business world, in-house attorneys considering returning to law firms are finding that their business experience is viewed as an asset. "We're seeing more lawyers interested in returning to a law firm practice after a number of years of being in-house," says Stacy Humphries of Houston's MS Legal Search. Most law firms view attorneys with corporate experience as good sources of future business because they have direct experience dealing with business executives and often bring a referral network. "Moving in-house from a law firm used to be a one-way street, but no longer." .

by Robert Tharp at 11:00:17 am

Remember when e-mail first became popular and warnings abounded about the self-policing nature of the World Wide Web? Early e-mail spammers found their e-mail mailboxes crammed with hate mail from folks who wanted to keep commerce out of the ether. Regrettably, spammers won that battle, but Web 2.0 and its myriad social
media networks still have a Wild West feel, and cautionary tales are emerging for those who attempt heavy-handed solicitations.

Consider Twitter, an often maddening medium that gives you an opportunity to send out short messages accompanied with a Web site link to targeted groups. Seattle law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and their marketing firm suffered widespread wrath when they used Twitter in an attempt to recruit class-action plaintiffs for a case against Verizon Wireless. The blunder got the attention of the Wall Street Journal and many, many others.

While the ubiquitous `I'm stuck in traffic on the way to the airport' Twitter posts that I typically receive are about as useful as spam and good examples of useful Twittering remain rare, the takeaway here is to think a little before you step out and pursue Web 2.0 marketing. Legal blogger Kevin O'Keefe nailed it with his recent post, Be smart. Just because your law firm, marketing company, or PR agency heard of a new communication tool that others have found powerful, doesn't mean you should start using it tomorrow. You need to know how to use tools like Twitter. This means getting out and playing with Twitter. Use it for personal use. Look at how others are using Twitter. Twitter on training wheels if you will. Then start using Twitter in business settings - after you feel very comfortable with how Twitter works. If you don't feel comfortable, don't start.

by Robert Tharp at 4:45:02 pm

Wasn't that long ago that advertising was off limits to lawyers and law firms. The prevailing thought was that lawyer ads somehow demeaned the profession. That stodgy
attitude started to change with the Supreme Court's 1977 Bates vs. Arizona Bates vs. Arizona ruling that the First Amendment allows lawyers to advertise, provided the message is not misleading to the public.

Thirty-one years later, some firms are really embracing creative advertising(other firms, not so much). Gardere Wynne Sewell, for example, understands that such a campaign can go hand in hand with being a big, internationally respected firm. Gardere was recently singled out to receive the prestigious "Award of Distinction" from the International Academy of the Visual Arts Communicator Awards for its smart "They call it/We call it" campaign.

by Robert Tharp at 3:31:10 pm

We love to talk PR and solve world problems over here at Androvett Legal Media. The little matter involving Russia's conflict with Georgia gave us the opportunity to do a little both. This interesting New York Times analysis describes how Russia may have won the battle related to the conflict with Georgia but failed in terms of the worldwide PR image war.

While Georgia's U.S.-educated leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, was making the press rounds early on, Russian leaders were busy putting the clampdown internally and feeling like they didn't need to make their case to the world press. We couldn't help but see similarities in the legal PR world. Think about it, you have to have a good battle plan in high-stakes litigation, but bad things can happen when you forget about or disregard the message you're intentionally or unintentionally sending outside the courthouse.

Consider this passage from the New York Times article: High-ranking Russian officials, who generally have a free hand in the Russian media, seem to find it demeaning to have to fight to get their message out. And they hold Mr. Saakashvili in such contempt, considering him a Western pawn who wants to bring NATO into their backyard, that they recoil at the idea of being perceived as his equal on the world stage, especially after pummeling his military forces.

It was not until four days after the conflict began - an eon in the 24-hour news universe - that a top Kremlin official was sent to CNN to counter Mr. Saakashvili. The official, Sergei B. Ivanov, a confidant of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, who speaks polished English and has long experience in the West, quickly acknowledged that an unfortunate perception had taken hold."A big Russian bear attacked a small, peaceful Georgia," said Mr. Ivanov, a deputy prime minister, before seeking to undo the damage. "In fact, the situation is and was vice versa. It was a big Georgia which attacked a small and tiny breakaway republic of South Ossetia."


by Robert Tharp at 4:51:40 pm

A few recent items out there on the interwebs point to the marketing power of blogs and configuring Web sites and their content for search engine optimization.

A study by eMarketer has some surprising findings regarding the way news reporters use blogs in the news-gathering process. According to this survey, nearly 40

percent of news reporters use blogs as a way to find subjects to write about. Nearly 30 percent use blogs as a way to find quotable experts. Even though there are more than 2,000 law-related blogs out there, this study confirms what many of us have already known, that blogs are an excellent way to improve your professional profile.

On a related note, this story offers a pretty basic primer on the importance of search engine optimization for law firm Web sites. The basic message: spending some time on your website and updating content(including blogs) can pay huge dividends. The piece raises an interesting rhetorical question: if search engine optimization works then why don't more people use it?

by Robert Tharp at 3:42:20 pm

A Boston attorney's class-action lawsuit against Google is interesting for so many reasons. Advertising with Google AdWords is an inexact science, so
Hal K. Levitte's complaint that his Google ads were ineffectively relegated to parked domain pages(pages that have no content except for targeted ads that viewers may inadvertantely stumble upon during keyword searches) or error pages is potentially important. Afterall, 99 percent of Google's revenue comes from ad sales, according to InformationWeek. But here's what jumped out at me in this story, Levitte complains that he got no paying clients from his Google endeavor. But his Google annual pay-per-click budget was just $136(out of a total advertising budget of $887) and he still somehow got 668 clicks to his site. His advertising strategy appears to be little more than trying to direct Internet viewers to his anemic Web site. Kinda makes you wonder what he was expecting to achieve in the first place.

by Robert Tharp at 4:31:45 pm

Will the next Woodward and Bernstein be citizen journalists who get the news out via blogs? Bloggers at the political Web site, Room 8, have certainly gotten the

attention of New York movers and shakers. As reported by the New York Times and others, prosecutors served a grand jury subpoena to the Web site earlier this year along with a saber-rattling warning that blogging about the subpoena would amount to illegally interfering with an active investigation. The gag order was later dropped after the bloggers threatened to sue. Along the way, the tactics raised serious concerns among free-speech advocates. For Peter Vogel, who focuses on Internet law and technology at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, the case is the latest example of how laws are not keeping pace with rapidly advancing electronic medium. "When the first Internet browser was released as a public utility, no one even dreamed of blogging. The courts simply don't have a body of law on which to base their rulings," he says. "Courts are generally slow to adapt to major social change because existing laws don't necessarily fit the new situation. These complex cases will continue to vex the courts until that body of law develops."

by Robert Tharp at 4:18:05 pm

You never know what'll get you on the cover of Texas Lawyer, and it's not always the latest windfall verdict or professional faux pas. Staff writer Jenny B. Davis dug down
 Future firm partner
deep for her July 14 feature, beyond the CVs of some of the state's most respected legal minds to find an interesting common denominator: fast food experience in their formative years. Her premise: that those early jobs helped make these individuals the attorneys they are today.

For Thompson & Knight associate Kevin Pennell, scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins at age 14 taught him something about teamwork in a professional context that still rings home. Every time TK partner W. Mark Bennett quickly reads a crowded room or sizes up opposing counsel across a table, he's grateful for the hours he logged at a Chuck E. Cheese in Arlington, wearing a hot and unwieldy rodent costume.

"When you're walking out and you could see the little kid whose birthday it was, you learned how to read a face really fast to know whether they were going to run and hide or run and hug," Bennett told Davis. "Now that's part of my job - to read people, to give clients the best advice we can based on instincts."

That's what I call valuable professional experience. Great journalism? I didn't spit out my Cheerios and yell `Hey Martha!' but the piece made me think a little and sparked some office conversations. And that's more than can be said for many articles that I read. Me? I'm struggling to recall any redeeming life lessons from slinging burgers at Wendy's, except that the long hot and underpaid Austin summer was powerful motivation to finish college. And don't eat the chili.

by Robert Tharp at 10:32:28 am

Just a few weeks ago, we reported here about how wildly popular LinkedIn has become among lawyers and law firms, adding roughly tens of thousands of attorneys to its roles each month in 2008. Here's further proof that LinkedIn has emerged as

the killer ap in the world of lawyer and law firm directories. Martindale-Hubbell, the gold standard of traditional lawyer directories and attorney ratings, has now installed LinkedIn links within its attorney and law firm listings. Every attorney or law firm in Martindale-Hubbell's directory now has a LinkedIn link right beside their name. Hitting the link transports visitors to the attorney's or firm's dynamic online profile, which offers the ability to include expansive material about expertise and background, as well as an interactive social network of connections and peer or client recommendations. Credit goes to Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs for reporting this first. Another reason to join: LinkedIn has also proven to do a powerful job attracting search-engine optimization through Google alogorithms. It's the first of the vast array of social media networking options that has clearly demonstrated its usefullness, and thus appears to be here to stay.   

Finally, a survey of 650 lawyers released last week found that nearly half are already members of some type of online social media network, and more than 40 percent believe online professional networking has great potential. The survey, which was bankrolled by Martindale-Hubbell, concludes that a need exists for a private, online legal network. The survey reports that lawyers are primarily interested in generating client and peer referrals(big surprise there) and are generally frustrated with their ability to stay connected with peers and colleagues. Fifty-four percent of in-house counsel and 41 percent of private-practice attorneys indicated that the ability to link to other attorneys and expand their networks as the most important feature of social media networks like LinkedIn. 



by Robert Tharp at 4:47:00 pm

An enormous ruling came out of the Rhode Island Supreme Court this week, protecting manufacturers of lead paint from liability for creating a “public nuisance.” The
Wall Street Journal praised the ruling in a lead editorial(subscription required). Beginning with the headline, “Another bogus legal theory gets the boot,” the WSJ editorial goes on to say “…the state Supreme Court stopped cold an attempt to turn lead paint into the next tobacco or asbestos." The ruling capped nine years and two jury trials and reversed a verdict that some estimated would have cost paint companies $2 billion.

Now for the Texas connection: a law review article on such public nuisance litigation co-authored by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP partners Richard O. Faulk and John S. Gray had an enormous effect on the court’s ruling. You won’t find Alchemy in the Courtroom? The Transmutation of Public Nuisance Litigation and the Michigan State Law Review on the news rack at Barnes & Noble, but the Supreme Court justices were obviously very familiar with it. The justices referenced the paper on four different occasions in their ruling. Faulk, who chairs Gardere's Litigation Department, calls the ruling a conclusive defeat for the expansion of public nuisance torts that will likely influence a wide range of other industries. "Advocates pursuing public nuisance lawsuits in other contexts, such as climate change, should take special notice of the court's rejection of an activist approach," he says.

by Robert Tharp at 1:25:19 pm

Even the noble act of performing volunteer work in off-time can have unintended risks for attorneys, writes attorney Jane Taber in a published piece singled out by the
State Bar of Texas as an example of exemplary legal writing. The reason: lawyers who volunteer their time with non-profits often find themselves mulling requests for them to sit on the organizations' boards. Taber, a founding partner of Dallas' Taber Estes Thorne & Carr PLLC, penned the 3-piece installment with attorney Chris Robison in 2007 for the Dallas Bar Association's Headnotes newsletter. Focusing on potential hidden liabilities, Taber's article offers practical tips for attorneys considering accepting a seat on a non-profit board. Among her key tips are investigating the position, exercising the duties of care and loyalty, and fully disclosing potential conflicts of interest. Taber writes from experience, having served on various non-profit boards, including the Lakewood Service League and the Developmental Learning Center at Dallas' First United Methodist Church.

by Robert Tharp at 4:55:32 pm

Minority attorneys of any political stripe can learn something from Barrack Obama's candidacy, writes attorney Kathleen Wu in her second and final installment analyzing the
Democratic candidates from the perspective of a motivational coach. While Wu's earlier piece on the Hillary Clinton campaign offered parallels specifically for female lawyers, her latest essay concludes that Obama's campaign has something to offer everyone, regardless of party affiliation. Wu, a partner at Andrews Kurth in Dallas, notes the simple("Dress better than you have to") to the profound ("Don't let lowered expectations equal lowered performance") in the Obama story. "Obama offers a useful road map to success, whatever one's political ideology: Early struggles do not rule out future successes," Wu writes. "Others' limited ideas about one's potential are not insurmountable barriers to achievement." For those waiting for Wu's take on John McCain, don't hold your breath. "He's undoubtedly a statesman and may well be our next president," she writes. "Still, he's white and he's male; I just don't know anything about being either of those two things."


by Robert Tharp at 11:13:54 am

Officially, D CEO calls its 2008 roundup of lawyers with the top courtroom skills, "The Advocates." We liked the headline on the cover of the glossy Dallas publication, "The Hit Men," featuring local attorneys Marty Rose of Rose•Walker, Frank Branson of The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson and Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner
looking all-business. Those three attorneys plus Jeff Tillotson of Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox and Mike McKool of McKool Smith each receive in-depth profiles inside the publication. As D CEO writer John G. Browning puts it, "They are apex predators at the top of the litigation food chain, moving as effortlessly and efficiently in the courtroom as great white sharks gliding through their watery habitat. Their courtroom exploits throughout Texas and the rest of the country have earned them princely sums and larger-than-life reputations in the legal community."

by Robert Tharp at 2:26:24 pm

Staying abreast of the latest social networking sites can be so daunting that it has spanwed a form of anxiety that has its own media-given name: "social networking fatigue."

So what's an attorney to do? Should you care about Twitter and the opportunity to keep a network of contacts apprised of daily happenings in no more than 140-character messages?. Should a business litigator stoop to the level of Facebook or MySpace?

A confluence of recent news reports indicate that at least one social networking site has emerged as a dominant and potentially useful networking tool that no law firm

should ignore. That would be LinkedIn. Consider:

• According to legal blogger Steve Matthews, LinkedIn is adding tens of thousands of attorneys to its membership rolls each month.

• Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs reports that there are now more attorneys in the LinkedIn directory than in, and Many law firms have separate LinkedIn profiles as well.
• Finally, there was news Tuesday that LinkedIn had secured $53 million in venture capital and will likely be rolling out new services in the coming months.

According to the New York Times, LinkedIn is now valued at $1 billion and has seen its membership swell in the last year to 23 million members. The Times reports: "...The average age of a LinkedIn user is 41, the point in life where people are less likely to build their digital identities around dates, parties and photos of revelry. LinkedIn Gives professionals, even the most hopeless wallflower, a painless way to follow the advice of every career counselor: build a network. Users maintain online resumes, establish links with collegues and business acquaintances and then expand their networks to the contacts of their contacts."

by Robert Tharp at 11:24:47 am

There's a certain amount of truth to the cliché that most lawyers have a secret ambition to pen a courtrom thriller. Like (ahem)former newspaper reporters, most lack the
discipline to sit down and start, let alone finish their Great American Novel. But some do manage to get something done in their spare time. Dallas lawyer Mark Werbner has been named as a finalist in the 2008 Texas Bar Journal Short Fiction Writing Contest, for his short story, "The Test." Werbner's tale recounts a big-shot civil attorney's somewhat bumbling representation of a thuggish client in a gritty murder case. And it wouldn't be fair if the story didn't have an unexpected plot twist.

Werbner, cofounder of Dallas-based Sayles Werbner, is a veteran trial attorney who has handled some of the country's most notable cases during his 30 years of practicing law. His courtroom victory in a $200 million contract dispute between members of the de Boule mining family was been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top defense victories last year. I can see a screenplay-in-the-making for his efforts to strike a blow against terrorism by going after their financing sources, a case that has already received national media attention.

by Robert Tharp at 10:53:20 am

Location scouts for "Karma Police" were searching for the quintessential big-city law office for filming when they approached attorney STEVEN H. STODGHILL, widely known for the ecclectic collection of art and memorabilia he maintains in his downtown office. By the time the discussions wrapped up, Steve had negotiated his way into a speaking part in the movie, his name in the closing credits and even got to name his character, Buddy Love, in honor of his all-time favorites, Jerry Lewis's character in "The Nutty Professor." This marks Steve's second role in a feature film. In the 2006 movie, "The Wendell Baker Story," starring Luke and Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell and Eva Mendes, Steve played the part of a lawyer, Otto Brinker. In real life, Steve embraces the role of a successful attorney. He is a principal in the Dallas office of Fish & Richardson P.C., where he represents companies and individuals in a variety of complex commercial litigation and intellectual property matters.

by Robert Tharp at 4:03:38 pm

Jury award puts Dallas legal icon Frank L. Branson in elite company

A horrific August 2004 Dallas County truck crash that resulted in a $20.8 million jury award last year has been named one of the largest verdicts of 2007 by American Lawyer Media's

Verdict Search. The verdict in Bohne v. Enviroclean Management Services Inc. was No. 92 in the publication's "Top 100 Verdicts of 2007." 

Mr. Branson, founder of The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, represented the wife and estate of Robert E. Bohne, who died from his injuries after his car was struck by an 18-wheeler carrying hazardous waste for Dallas-based Enviroclean Managemenet Services Inc. Branson's investigation revealed that Enviroclean failed to properly screen the truck's driver, who had a history of drug abuse and driving infractions. The truck crash was the focus of a Dallas Morning News investigative series on trucking safety.

by Robert Tharp at 3:50:56 pm

Time was, big law firms viewed their long unwieldy firm names with pride, as if an oral exercise in tongue-twisting illiteration was somehow a measure of quality and professionalism.

Maybe it’s the internet age and information overload, but it appears to be a bona fide trend that law firm names are shrinking. Commas and ampersands are also disappearing. In some cases it's a conscious marketing decision, and sometimes long firm names just shrink in an organic process that starts when clients and colleagues develop an abbreviated street name that eventually sticks.  Think about Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, which is now just Mayer Brown.  Or Winstead Sechrest & Minick, now simply Winstead.