In my early days of private practice, I would get calls from people having problems with their sink or toilet.
At first I thought it was a sign. Perhaps I had chosen the wrong profession. Soon I figured out what was actually going on. My telephone number was one digit different from that of a local plumbing company.
This was back in the dark ages when people communicated telephonically by inserting their index finger into one of 10 holes on a rotary disc, with a high possibility of dialing error.
So I drove over to Low Country Plumbers to clear things up. I was greeted by a pleasant man in a snappy uniform. On his matching cap and overalls was a fancy logo featuring the letters L, C and P, elegantly intertwined in gold embroidery, with a pipe wrench in place of the P.
I explained how our phone numbers were nearly identical and that as a consequence I’d been fielding calls from folks with leaky faucets and clogged drainpipes.
“And I’m guessing you’ve gotten some calls from clients looking for a lawyer,” I said.
“Actually, no,” he said. But, noticing my disappointment, he added, “Then again, I’m not here all day.”
I left my contact information so he could send any future callers my way. As I handed him my business card I felt a flush of shame. The card was embarrassingly boring - black and white and Times New Roman font – compared to his magnificent trade dress.
Making One’s Mark
Driving back to my office, I couldn’t stop thinking about that plumbing logo. It was beautiful. It conferred instant credibility. It made you yearn for a flooded basement, just to have a panel van emblazoned with such awesome artwork pull into your driveway.
That night I dreamed of trademarks. I woke at dawn with the sun breaking over the harbor – this was when I was renting a tiny third-floor apartment on Tradd Street – and the water seemingly on fire.
I had an epiphany. I realized what my practice lacked was a logo. That was the only thing separating me from the big time. And not just any logo, but a world-class logo, one to rival the gold-embossed, pipe-wrenched splendor of Low Country Plumbers.
I gathered drawing materials and went to work. These were primitive days before Photoshop and Corel Pro, when art was created from pressed, bleached sheets of wood pulp and cylindrical, lead-filled No. 2 writing devices.
I sketched the most amazing logos. I drew the scales of justice and Lady Liberty. I drew courthouse pillars reaching to heaven. I drew a briefcase on wheels to illustrate house calls.
Nothing Beats the Personal Touch
I rushed my designs over to my friend Nick, the most creative counsel this side of Colleton County. He looked them over, shook his head and handed them back.
“If you want new business, start with the personal touch,” he said. “The logo can wait.”
He told me to grab a stack of my business cards – the same artless scraps that had stirred such humiliation at Low Country Plumbers – and accompany him to the county bar luncheon. When we arrived, he told me to go around the room and introduce myself to as many lawyers as possible.
“Tell them you just opened your practice and would appreciate any cases they could send your way,” he said. “Give them your card. And say thank you.”
So I did. And as usual, Nick was right. Personal contact did the trick. Within days I was getting referrals from other attorneys.
One morning the phone rang. It was my mother with her daily check-in call.
“The funniest thing just happened,” she said. “I must have dialed the wrong number because a plumber picked up.”
I hadn’t thought of Low Country Plumbers in some time. I’d been too busy with my new cases.
“He was the nicest man,” my mother said. “He asked how your practice was going.”
“It’s going great,” I said. “I’m thinking about getting a logo.”
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man has practiced in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at email@example.com.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.