Catchy ad campaign helped launch international society

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

How does a small boutique law firm acquire the muscle mass of one of the legal behemoths that generally dominate the medium to large size markets?

Join Primerus.

So says Jack Buchanan, renowned Michigan trial attorney and founder of The International Society of Primerus Law Firms, a select group that is bound together under the umbrella of “Good People Who Happen to Be Good Lawyers.”

That phrase, in all its simplicity, may have served as one of the sparks that lit the fuse for Primerus, which was founded in 1992 due in part to a series of creative ads that ran in the print and broadcast media.

One of those ads centered on a drawing of Lady Justice, holding the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other, atop a headline that proclaimed, “She may be blind, but she isn’t stupid.”

Or another of a “fat cat” in a three-piece pinstripe suit, looking smug with cigar in hand as the feline stands atop a headline, “In court, he’s no bigger than you.”

A third even was bold enough to feature photos of Hitler, Stalin, and Ayatollah Khomeni, bearing the message of “Three leaders who really knew how to streamline a legal system.”

Tyrannical law, by any measure, is brazenly “efficient,” the ad noted.

“Their law wasted no time or money,” the ad message said of the three tyrants. “They allowed no lengthy trials or appeals.

“So next time you hear someone lament our legal system’s inefficiency, remind them: efficiency is possible. But its price is horribly high.”

Buchanan originally developed the ad campaign to help bolster the fortunes of his Grand Rapids law firm, Buchanan & Bos, in 1990.

“By 1992, they were so effective along with our ‘How to Judge an Attorney’ brochure and our phone book ad that we were able to launch what is now Primerus,” explained Buchanan, a University of Michigan Law School alum.

“The ads generated a lot of positive feedback from members of the bench and bar, most of whom were delighted that we were doing our part to advance the legal profession in the eyes of the public,” Buchanan added. “I think that many of them were tired of lawyers constantly being the butt of bad jokes.”

Primerus, according to Buchanan, is a society of the “world’s finest independent boutique law firms” and is comprised of carefully selected firms in nearly 200 cities and more than 40 countries around the globe.

“Primerus firms are characterized by their commitment to the Six Pillars, which include Integrity, Excellent Work Product, Reasonable Fees, Continuing Legal Education, Civility, and Community Service,” said Buchanan, noting that the Primerus name has “become synonymous around the world with high quality legal services” at a fair price.

“The most important decision a client must make in resolving or avoiding legal problems is finding the right lawyer, with the right skills, in the right location, and at the right cost,” Buchanan said.

Attorney Joel Collins, co-founder of the South Carolina law firm of Collins & Lacy, is a believer in the Primerus approach. He became acquainted with the then fledgling organization in 1995 when he read an article about it and decided to attend a conference for prospective members.

“After reading the article, I was intrigued by their efforts to counter the negative public opinion that people have about the legal profession,” said Collins, a former member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and a Vietnam War vet who was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. “Primerus was dedicated to elevating the standards of the profession by word and by example. The problem was that lawyers had a tendency to think all the bad things being said about them were unfair, while the public was of the belief that all those bad stories were true.”

There, in stark terms, was the “rub” in the need to change public perception, said Collins.

“The ‘Six Pillars’ are the backbone of the organization and have enabled Primerus to develop a network of high-quality law firms that can service virtually any legal need at a reasonable fee,” he said. “Every firm in Primerus is thoroughly vetted to ensure that they meet standards of excellence.”

During the 2012 Global Conference for Primerus, Collins was honored with the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to a man who is a shining “star” in the legal profession, according to Buchanan. The University of South Carolina School of Law alum has practiced law for more than half a century, and recently authored an autobiography fittingly titled, “The First 50 Years Are the Toughest.”

“He is nationally famous as the past president of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), one of the most respected organizations of trial lawyers in the world,” Buchanan said of Collins.

Bob Brown, one of the principals in the Houston firm of Donato Brown Pool & Moehlmann, also is part of the nationwide Primerus alliance of lawyers and law firms who are “pre-screened for – and sworn to uphold – the Six Pillars.” Like Collins, Brown became a Primerus booster – and member – after attending one of its convocations.

“I really didn’t know anything about Primerus, but I fell in love with their concept and wanted to get involved to help make their goals happen,” said Brown, a University of Houston Law Center grad. “After joining, I quickly became active in the Primerus Defense Institute, assuming a leadership role by twice serving as chair.”

According to Brown, Buchanan has built Primerus with the principal intent of helping clients find top-notch legal help at an affordable cost, while also developing an ever-expanding network of highly-respected law firms.

“Primerus is built to work as a team, and during all my years of involvement I’ve never sent a client to one of the other members without them being pleased and satisfied with the legal services they received,” said Brown. “That says a lot about the vetting process that each firm goes through and the continued adherence to our high standards.

“Due largely to Jack and his vision, Primerus has helped restore honor and dignity to the legal profession,” added Brown. “He deserves a world of credit for that.”



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