TBA Law Blog

Posted by: William Haltom on Jan 29, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Feb 2009

Long before I dreamed of being a lawyer, I wanted to be a cowboy. I wanted to sit tall in the saddle like the Marlboro Man or Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. That's because I grew up watching TV Westerns such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Wyatt Earp.

My all-time favorite TV Western was Rawhide. The show featured cattle drivers and starred Eric Fleming as trail boss Gil Favor and a young actor named Clint Eastwood as ramrod cattle driver Rowdy Yates. The co-stars of the show were about 10,000 moo-cows.

Rawhide had the coolest theme song of any TV show in history. Even to this day, more than 40 years after the show's last cattle drive, I remember every line of the Rawhide theme song. I sometimes sing it a cappella as I am driving to work in the morning. My favorite part of the song goes like this:

Keep movin', movin', movin'
Though they're disapprovin'
Keep them dogies movin'

Don't try to understand 'em
Just rope, throw and brand 'em!
Soon we'll be living high and wide!

I thought about Rawhide recently when I read in The Daily News, the Memphis legal newspaper, that the Memphis law firm of Farris, Matthews, Branan, Bobango, Hellen & Dunlap was shortening its name and being "re-branded." I understood shortening the name of the firm, as like most people, I can only remember the first two names in any law firm. (It's Dewey, Cheatham, not Dewey, Cheatham and Howe.) But for the life of me, I could not figure out why in the world these fine Memphis lawyers were being "re-branded," or even why they had been branded the first time. I never heard of lawyers being branded as if they were cattle or members of a college fraternity.

But upon further investigation, I learned, to my relief, that none of my buddies at Farris, Bobango, Branan were being rounded up and seared in their fanny as if they were starring in a new TV show called Legal Rawhide. Rather, I learned that "branding" is a new legal marketing concept in which law firms become known by shorter names paired with catchy slogans or tag lines.

For years, many of America's most successful corporations have been known by such "brands." For example, there's "Avis: We Try Harder." Fedex is known by the brand, "Absolutely, Positively Overnight." And then, there's my all-time favorite brand, "Kentucky Fried Chicken: We Do Chicken Right."

Well, it appears that law firms are finally catching up and getting branded.

The new brand for the Farris firm is "Farris Bobango " Creative Practical Legal Strategies Tailored to Your Specific Business."

I have also learned that Farris, Bobango, Branan is not the only Tennessee law firm that has now been branded or re-branded. Miller & Martin in Chattanooga now markets itself as "Miller & Martin: Responsive Relationships, Real Results."

In Nashville, Bass, Berry & Sims now proudly announces itself as "Bass, Berry & Sims: Developing Winning Strategies in the Boardroom and the Courtroom."

Woolf McClane in Knoxville features the memorable brand, "From Taxation to Toxic Torts," not to be confused with the brand of "The Law Offices of Burt Lancaster: From Here to Eternity."

But the prize for the most concise, to-the-point brand goes to the Memphis law firm of Adams & Reese. Its brand is simply "Adams & Reese: Out in Front." With all due respect to Adams & Reese, "Out in Front" would be a better brand for Dollywood.

Well, I have spent my entire legal career at the same Memphis law firm, the unbranded Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson, Mitchell and a Whole Bunch of Other People Whose Names Don't Matter, Including Me. But I now recognize that the time has come for my partners and me to shorten our firm name, drop our trousers, bend over and get branded.

And so I am pleased to announce that subject to the approval of my 47 named and unnamed partners, my law firm will soon be known as "Thomason Hendrix: We Do Legal Chicken Right."  

Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.