Choosing the Koehler Law Motto
During my first year in law school, I heard a Latin phrase that immediately resonated with me: Fiat Justitia Caellum, which is roughly translated into English as “Let Justice Rule, Though the Heavens May Fall.” On starting my own law practice, I immediately thought of that phrase as the potential slogan/motto/tagline for my new firm.
I tested the phrase on the ABA Listserv Solosez and the derision I received in response was almost palpable. These lawyers, I tell you, are a tough audience. Latin? You are going to use Latin? How elitist! How snobbish! How pretentious! No one will understand it and you will have to explain it to people all the time. Even if you were to use a Latin phrase, that’s not the one you should choose. Justice? What does that mean? It sounds more like a phrase a prosecutor would use, not a defense attorney. And so on.
So I put that idea to bed.
My next step was to enlist the help of my father, a 94-year-old retired English professor. After all, this was the man who came up with “Because It’s Zayre!” as a proposed marketing slogan for the now defunct department store. Or “It’s A Grade-A Coming” for Borden’s Milk. Or my favorite: “The Store That Looks as Good From the Back as It Does From the Front” for the former grocery store chain, Finast. Maybe if all these stores would listen to my father, they wouldn’t have gone out of business.
But, I told my father, my motto can’t be funny. Law is serious business, you know.
So what message do you want to convey, my father wanted to know. I don’t know, I said. I’m a criminal defense lawyer. And I’m a good one. I look out for people. I protect their constitutional rights. I want to convey the personal attention they will receive. And I will do all of this at reasonable rates. Can you come up with something to convey that?
So my father got to work.
In the meantime, I started mulling over some ideas of my own. I briefly considered “Reasonable Rates for Reasonable Doubt.” But I had already seen some version of that on the Internet, so that one was already taken. Besides, I was concerned about getting myself into ethical problems with the D.C. bar for making unrealistic promises of success.
I liked the slogan used by a Philadelphia criminal defense firm, Levin & Zeiger, “Serious Lawyers, Protecting Your Rights,” because it gave the message I was trying to convey. This is serious stuff. You have rights. We’ll protect those rights. I played around with different versions but couldn’t come up with anything that worked. “Serious lawyer. Personal attention.” No. That didn’t work, though I was beginning to like the idea of two short phrases, separated by a period.
My father called. “From Moot to Suit,” he suggested. Or “From Suit to Moot.” No, Dad. Clever but a little too obscure. Also, it doesn’t convey my message. Back to the drawing board for my father.
I also looked at what some of the big law firms were using. The good ones were short, pithy. “Power of Collaboration” for Akin Gump. “The Business of Relationships” for Reed Smith. “Business Essentials” for Steptoe & Johnson. “Results Matter” for Burr and Forman. “Legally Speaking” for Compatore Law. “Clients First” for Bond Pearce. “Our Mission is Your Success” for Shepard Mullin. “Not If But How” for Arnall Golden Gregory. “The Confidence to Proceed” for Cozen O’Connor.
A couple of days later, I heard again from my father. I’ve been thinking about this at night, he told me. How about “You Score When We Defend”? As I am mulling this over, I can hear from my mother talking to him in the background. Or, my father says: “We Defend. You Score.” My mother knows I am leaning towards two short phrases, separated by a period.
It’s a sports metaphor, I say. Some people may not get it. Besides, I may be making unrealistic promises again.
My father is not discouraged. He likes the challenge. After all, he’s been thinking about this at night.
Now I try one out on my father that I’ve been playing with: “Your Rights. Your Lawyer.”
I like it. It conveys the notion of the constitutional rights I want to protect. And it suggests the type of relationship I hope to develop with clients; namely, that they will know that I am there for them. It also suggests the personal attention I was trying to convey with earlier candidates.
There is a moment of silence on the phone as my father thinks this over. I hear him discussing it with my mother. It’s okay, he says finally, but he doesn’t sound enthusiastic.
I try it out on the Solosez listserv. The reaction there, too, is lukewarm but at least it’s better than the last time I posted a suggestion.
So, it’s settled: “Your Rights. Your Lawyer.” I have not put it on my website. I have not put it on my business card. But it’s good enough for now. At least that is, until my father, thinking about this at night, comes up with a better one.