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February 18, 2013

“Attorney Big Al”: Santa Claus or Racist Faux Pas?

by Sam Ranard

Have you heard of “Attorney Big Al”?  Here is the jingle-

The ads are worse.  The marketing videos go even further-

Free money, huh?

 

Please stop, close your eyes and picture “Attorney Big Al.” Hold on to that image.  What do you envision? (please vote)

 

 

“Attorney Big Al” is “Real”- or is he?

Promoting “Attorney Big Al,” local DJ T-Roy (from 93.3 the Beat) once said, “Big Al is so real that he will help you get real cash.” He also called “Big Al” his “new best friend.”  And said you could call Big Al, “Right now!” and he is “real personal.”  In fact, he is “so real that he will help you get real cash.”  And T-Roy said that Big Al will get you “racks on racks on racks on racks, ten stacks or better” of cash.  See it for yourself in one of several videos on the internet-

 

Did the image in your mind’s eye change?

 

Is there any doubt that T-Roy was referring to a real lawyer- a human with a law degree?

 

Well, that image might get even better and bigger, “Because getting you paid is what he ’bout,” according to this video:

And, he’s going to take care of your bills, too:

bills

 

T-Roy doesn’t know, nor is he in any way responsible for the Bar Rules a lawyer like “Big Al” must adhere to.  T-Roy was just doing a promo.  Lawyers must control such promos.  This blog examines how real “Big Al” really is?

 

Who is “Attorney Big Al”?attorney big al insurance

First off, you probably haven’t heard of “Attorney Big Al” if you don’t listen to stations which play rap and R&B music, as this personal injury lawyer advertising campaign is predominately marketed to the African American population.  I discovered these ads while listening to T-Roy’s station and couldn’t believe my ears.  Each time, I was more offended.  The ads seemingly promise “Attorney Big Al” will get you money, even if you are at fault for the wreck, even if you don’t have insurance and a series of other flamboyant statements.  The commercial’s announcer and rapper used appropriate slang and spoke to a listener who was likely African American.  There was no “non commercial spokesperson” or any other disclaimer I thought was required under Florida law.

Attorney Big Al NationalSo, I was confused.  Was there a new lawyer in town?  Who was this “Big Al” and how big was he?  Unlike what T-Roy and other DJ’s across the country have been told to say, I couldn’t find “Attorney Big Al” anywhere.  In fact, every lawyer I could find who used “Attorney Big Al” as a name to market was white, not black.

So, I thought, “Attorney Big Al” is white? Or maybe “Attorney Big Al” actually has no color.  Maybe I am the insensitive one, assuming “Al” was African American.  Did I judge a rap jingle by its cover?  No.  The campaign used stereotype marketing, focused on African Americans. I never saw a white guy say they hired “Al” and I didn’t hear “Al” on any country stations.

As best as I can tell, these guys are the actual lawyers behind “Attorney Big Al” and/or the actual “Al”(s):

 

 

And they have allowed the trademark to be used by other lawyers not named “Al,” (yet who refers to himself as “Big Al” even though I think his name is Mark):

 

 

More Mark:

 

 

And Mark gives away money:

 

 

And More money:

 

 

You see, “Al” is apparently just a trademark of a lawyer referral service and not “A” singular human lawyer at all despite the fact the commercial seems to say otherwise.  People are allowed to purchase the right to call themselves “Attorney Big Al” and use the name for marketing.  There was NO specific “Attorney Big Al” in Jacksonville looking to get you paid.  Period.  The commercial which played here didn’t tell you that. T-Roy didn’t tell you that.  93.3 the Beat didn’t tell you that. Clear Channel didn’t tell you that.  And it is now gone from Jacksonville airwaves, and disappeared shortly after this blog was first posted.

 

Rant

I wish lawyers would just be real. Stop with the half-truths and gimmicks.  It’s why the public hates lawyers. 10478152_657299701019245_1158950497645599583_n

At least, on some sites, the lawyers disclose that ““BIG AL”, “1-800-HURT-123″ and “HURT123″ are registered trademarks of Hurt 123 Holding LLC and are used under license from “Hurt 123 Marketing LLC.”  So, even though some of these lawyers call themselves “Big Al,” they recognize it is a trademark. “Big Al” is and was a licensed out campaign.

The silliness doesn’t stop there.  They even picked their logo off of a contest site that had diamonds in it and is by far the slickest– 99designs.com.  Here are the designs they did not choose- http://99designs.com/signage-design/contests/prize-guaranteed-signage-wanted-attorney-big-al-190300/designers#contest-breadcrumbs.

So, I poked fun at them.  What did they do, they threatened to sue me if I didn’t remove this blog.  Why?

In full disclosure, this was part of their explanation of it all:

big al letterI am still confused.  Are you?

 

What do the Rules of Ethics say?

Under Florida law:

RULE 4-7.12 REQUIRED CONTENT

(a) Name and Office Location. All advertisements for legal employment must include:

(1) the name of at least 1 lawyer, the law firm, the lawyer referral service if the advertisement is for the lawyer referral service, or the lawyer directory if the advertisement is for the lawyer directory, responsible for the content of the advertisement; and

(2) the city, town, or county of 1 or more bona fide office locations of the lawyer who will perform the services advertised.

A lawyer must advertise his actual name and office.   In the “Attorney Big Al” ad I heard, “Big Al” who no last name, identifying information and made promises that were problematic.

Listen and see if you hear anything 4.7.12 requires:

 

Further:

RULE 4-7.13 DECEPTIVE AND INHERENTLY MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS

A lawyer may not engage in deceptive or inherently misleading advertising.

(a) Deceptive and Inherently Misleading Advertisements. An advertisement is deceptive or inherently misleading if it:

(1)  contains a material statement that is factually or legally inaccurate;

(2)  omits information that is necessary to prevent the information supplied from being

misleading; or

(3) implies the existence of a material nonexistent fact.

“Attorney Big Al”- does he exist?  I don’t know to this day and can’t get a straight answer.  The name alone implies the existence of a fact which does not seem to exist.  Or does it?  Is Alon “Attorney Big Al”?  I don’t know.  Thus, it is inherently misleading.  I also heard an ad in Florida that misstated how PIP insurance claims work.  It’s disturbing.

And then the ad and promoted testimonials make:

(1) statements or information that can reasonably be interpreted by a prospective client as a prediction or guaranty of success or specific results;

You cannot do that.  And also, you cannot use:

(5) a voice or image that creates the erroneous impression that the person speaking or shown is the advertising lawyer or a lawyer or employee of the advertising firm. The following notice, prominently displayed would resolve the erroneous impression: “Not an employee or member of law firm”;

I am still wondering about who the lawyer behind the ad is and who are the firms’ employees.  Who is singing?  And is “Big Al” an employee?  Which office?  This is entirely putting aside T-Roy’s testimonial which clearly stated Big Al was real and he has personally met him and other comments that he is “nationally” known and worked for insurance companies.

Attorney Big Al GiveawayUnder Maryland’s Rule 7.2, regarding advertising, (c), states “A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services…”  That cash that is being shown off in the endorsement video, was that tied to the recommendation of “Attorney Big Al”?  Probably not.  But why use cash give-aways in marketing?  Why film it?  Why- to really any of this?

 

And similarly:

Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it:

(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;

(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or

(c) compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.

Isn’t this whole campaign misleading?  I think so, but that is just my opinion.

 We could go on with the same ads run in Georgia, Texas and other jurisdictions.

Why is this a problem?

GiveStatistics from childrensdefense.org show- 1 out of 3 boys born to African American families today will likely to go to jail; black men are 8% of the population in the United States and comprise 3% of college undergraduates and 48% of prison inmates; 1 out of 2 young black men do not finish high school; 3 out of 4 of them will be unemployed and 60% of them will eventually be incarcerated. That is the state of black men and boys in America. It is a state of urgency.

Leaders, like DJ’s across the country, must refuse to dumb down and what Hollywood has let portray the African American male become who he is. Let him be strong and smart. Let him not fall for those that seek to use and deceive him.

I know it may not be my place, but no one else is saying it and we cannot let this trash continue.  There is no magic answer and white men using a fictional “Attorney Big Al” to give away money and say a wreck can lead you to “stacks” or “racks” of cash is just not responsible.

 

What is the other side’s response?

We have been asked to take this blog down.  We did for a while.  The people behind “Attorney Big Al” don’t want anything negative to show up and detract from their brand.  So, we might get sued or create an enemy.  It’s unfortunate, but important.

 

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