Don't Mess With Texas (at least not its lawyers): Is there no such thing as bad publicity?

Is there no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to lawyer marketing?

When Irish author Brendan Behan said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary”, he was referring to the attention he got from his drunken public appearances, on both stage and television.

Nonetheless, he may as well have been talking about Joe Jamail’s, now notorious, Texas-style deposition.


But does the “no such thing as bad publicity” idea really apply to lawyer marketing?  Perform a simple search for Mr. Jamail in google, and it becomes quite obvious that his reputation as a trial attorney is highly celebrated.  And he certainly isn’t alone.  The internet is filled with lawyer videos and advertisments depicting completely unprofessional, if not unethical, behavior.  But based on the sheer volume of lawyers that engage in these tactics, they must be working, right?

Perhaps “bad publicity” is simply a matter of opinion.  While my reaction to the “Texas-style deposition” was appalled, many people responded quite differently.

“Wow, what a fighter!”, “I’d like to have him fighting for me”, and “I wouldn’t want to face him”, were just a couple of the “positive” responses I have heard from others.

Now I certainly don’t consider myself self-righteous, but perhaps many of us have come to believe that cursing, insults, and threats a good lawyer make.

In any event, before engaging in this type of “lawyer marketing” strategy, you may want to consider the broader ramifications of such an approach (I understand that Mr. Jamail is no longer welcome to practice in Deleware, not that he cares).

Other consequences may include, losing professional relationships, high blood pressure, and getting your a** kicked!

While I don’t agree with many of the arcane, inflexible, and downright arbitrary attorney advertising rules, I do believe that some degree of lawyer marketing professionalism should be encouraged, if not mandated.

I am sure my criticism of such tactics will be met with, “Well he’s made millions with that lawyer marketing approach.”

This, I cannot deny.  However, in my professional experience, success with this type of “style” is the exception, not the rule.  Whether you’re a Boston bankruptcy lawyer or a Los Angeles civil rights attorney, the likelihood of benefitting from such an approach is low.

Call me weak.  Call me idealistic.  Call me “big-boy.”  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Michael Neff

    This deposition conduct is very unfortunate. The speaking objections and other obstructive conduct is barred by the federal rules of civil procedure. In Georgia, we have some positive case law citing the federal rules. Unfortunately, it usually takes a lot of time and effort to reach a Judge.

  • Michael J. Smith

    Having had the privilege as a young lawyer to be co-counsel with Mr. Jamail, I must correct what you are referring to as “lawyer marketing.” Joe doesn’t market using these deposition clips and other stuff. In fact, if you look in the Houston phone book, Joe doesn’t have an ad – just a simple directory listing with a phone number. He doesn’t like advertising by lawyers – just not his style. And as for his techniques, Joe is a trial lawyer and makes no bones about his tough style. But he is also one of the kindest, wisest, and most genteel people in the profession.

    I learned a great deal working with Joe for a year and a half or more – I learned many deposition skills from him and how to craft your case, theme, and arguments to be persuasive and effective. So while you may not agree with the snippet of his work you see in this video, don’t cast aspersions at him until you take the time to meet and understand the man.

    In fact, the ABA Journal, March 2009 issue, features Joe and six other great trial lawyers in its feature “7 over 70 – Lions of the Trial Bar.” I would encourage you to read it and learn a little more about Joe and the other great trial lawyers.

  • Gyi Tsakalakis


    Thanks for the comments. While Mr. Jamail may not “advertise” these deposition clips, I think you would agree that “one’s” “litigation-style” contributes to their reputation, and consequently, their “marketing”.

    I certainly did not intend to imply for a second that Mr. Jamail is not a highly qualified, respected, and successful attorney.

    Further, I have no reason to doubt (and certainly did not mean to imply) that Mr. Jamail isn’t a kind, wise, and genteel human being.

    The point that I intended (and, based on your comment, perhaps failed)to make was that lawyers who do intentionally use this “style” often sacrifice more than they gain.

    Thanks again for the comment.

  • Elaine Martin

    I am an attorney in Texas and I was once deposed by a lawyer who behaved like that. It was pitiful. I had no respect for him, especially when his bullying tactics didn’t work on me and he got more and more frustrated.