Thanks to everyone who contributed additional bits and pieces to the Howrey's Greatest Hits post. The contributions were so good that I had to compile them.
The Power of Focus
Oh, dear. Where to begin?
Circa 2002, Howrey had been using the slogan "Where Leaders Go" in its advertisements. Although I assume Bobby interpreted this slogan to mean "the law firm that is hired by business leaders," the slogan was also susceptible to several unfortunate double entendres. Howrey will rarely let a bad idea die, and note that when you type www.whereleadersgo.com into your web browser, you will be automagically redirected to Howrey's home page.
So Howrey decided it was time to develop another slogan. Howrey hired an (undoubtedly high priced) firm to cook up a new slogan and advertising campaign. The new slogan? "The Power of Focus." The supporting print advertising featured pictures of celebrities (I use that term loosely, see below) who ostensibly possessed "The Power of Focus" to achieve great things, and since Howrey said that it possessed "The Power of Focus," it would also enable its clients to also achieve great things. Howrey developed a new graphical look and feel for its website, which used a lot of yellows and reds and looked vaguely like an Asian fusion cuisine restaurant. Howrey even commissioned six video ads, which was somewhat prophetic considering that the previous law firm that had made a splash with video ads was...Brobeck.
This use of random celebrities to promote the Howrey brand was a blatant rip off of Apple's Think Different campaign. But the massive difference between "Think Different" and "The Power of Focus" was that while Apple paid the big bucks on instantly recognizable A-List celebrities such as John & Yoko, Lucy & Ricky, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Jim Henson & Kermit, and Martin Luther King, Howrey went cheapie and used C-to-Z-List celebrities, such as Duke Ellington, Judge John Sirica (i.e., the judge for whom Bobby Ruyak clerked), Monet (probably in the public domain, and impressionists aren't exactly known for being "focused" in their works, but never mind), and some chick who did something while playing a game of softball (seriously). So that must mean that Howrey is a C-to-Z-List law firm by association, right?
What happened next does indeed suggest "yes." Before launch, you would think that a law firm promoting itself as the world's best intellectual property practice would have run a trademark search to make sure that no one had already registered "The Power of Focus," right? Wrong. And it turned out that a law firm in Miami had already done so. Whoopsie.
Setting aside that minor trademark clearance problem, Bobby (R) took "The Power of Focus" and its videos on the road to each of Howrey's offices and handed every Howrey employee a pair of miniature binoculars in a metal case, emblazoned with "Howrey Simon Arnold & White: The Power of Focus." It's quite the collectible.
Soon after Howrey discovered it was infringing the trademark OF ANOTHER LAW FIRM, it adopted a new slogan: "The Advantage of Focus." And that law firm in South Florida has had "The Power of Focus" ever since.
We all remember the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Throughout the world, many companies donated money and supplies and many charitable organizations rushed to provide emergency aid.
Giving to a charitable cause is a great thing. But giving to a charitable cause for the sake of generating publicity about your charitable proclivities is disgusting. And that's where Howrey stepped in (it).
In January 2005, Bobby announced that Howrey would be donating $1,000,000 to tsunami relief. Here's the press release, in which Bobby explained that he wanted Howrey to set an example for other law firms and that a donation of this magnitude would require "belt tightening." Unsurprisingly, few other firms rose to Bobby's challenge, and the financial source of the donation was quite troubling...and creative!
One would expect that the "belt tightening" would have meant that Howrey's partners all participated in the the donation by tightening their belts. But no, this is Howrey! Mere weeks after the tsunami donation was announced, Howrey was required to pay profit sharing bonuses (about $15K - $20K) to its senior associates. Howrey solved its belt tightening dilemma by skipping the senior associate bonuses in 2005.
Lavish Partner Retreats
Howrey has a reputation for having lavish annual partner retreats in South Florida (usually at a Ritz), Grand Cayman, and even Puerto Rico. Howrey does not have offices in any of these locations. The closest might be South Florida, where a law firm registered "The Power of Focus" before Howrey could run a trademark clearance (see above).
Even in the spring of 2005 (when there was supposed to be "belt tightening" in the wake of the tsunami relief donation and Howrey Senior Associates were forced to forfeit their profit sharing bonuses), Howrey jetted all of its partners to a tropical island for several fun filled nights of Howrey hurrahs and self congratulations.
Does it really make any sense for a firm, while trying to justify its high billing rates to its clients, to fly all of its partners to Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, or South Florida for some back slapping? These retreats had to cost at least $1M each, and wouldn't partners have simply preferred to have that cash, instead of Bobby blowing it on a firm imposed vacation with coworkers? Or maybe partners would have preferred to have had time with their actual families, to have attended to billable client matters, and to have allowed the firm to pay its senior associate profit sharing bonuses?
The Runaway Jury
For some reason that made sense to someone in marketing, Howrey paid to have its name inserted into the script of the movie "The Runaway Jury." In the relevant scene, an assistant to Dylan MacDermott's character announced that he must leave a conference room to attend "a conference call about the antitrust approvals with Howrey at 11." Needless to say, most people who watched the film probably misheard the assistant, and thought he was about to speak with "Howie." But it didn't matter much, anyway, because said assistant character was killed a few moments later. So much for those antitrust approvals.
Anyone know how much Howie paid for this?
Partial Equity Partners
You either hold equity in something, or you don't. It's kinda like pregnancy or being married -- there's a binary "yes" or "no" answer.
A couple of years ago, Bobby developed a radical new scheme to raise revenue. He imposed a tariff on non-equity partners, in which they would have to contribute 10% of their income (on a post-tax basis) back to the firm. For this contribution of EQUITY investment, non-equity partners would receive none of the benefits given to equity partners, like contingency payments. Ruyak often dubbed this class of partners as "partial equity" partners. A large amount of downside, and none of the upside.
But no real worries, because partial equity partners will receive their equity back when they leave the firm. ... Oh. ... Sorry.
Do Leaders Go To New York?
Before Howrey launched its "Power/Advantage of Focus" campaign and shortly after the firm's "merger" with "Arnold White & Durkee," Howrey had new business cards printed with the "Howrey Simon Arnold & White" logo. On the back of these cards was a glossy photo of the skyline of Battery Park City and the World Trade Center in New York. Of course, Howrey did not have a New York office at that time.
In fact, I remember Bobby once saying that Howrey would never have a New York office because of the complexities and idiosyncrasies of the New York Market. I guess he changed his mind.
In a vanity project, Howrey commissioned a film (including professional actors) in which current Howrey attorneys consulted the ghosts of dead Howrey partners for advice. I really wish someone would obtain a copy post it on YouTube. I'm not equipped to handle video, but I bet the folks at Above the Law would proudly show it off a la "Everyone's A Winner At Nixon Peabody." Anyone interested in stepping up to the plate?
I think that pretty much covers it. It's all I can take today.