Over the last 25 years the supply of totem animals
available for law firm branding has steadily diminished. Lions®,
Bulldogs®, Sharks®, Wolves® and, most notably, Eagles® have long since
been claimed. The supply of suitably aggressive and photogenic animal
mascots is shrinking, and we may see the extinction of brandable animals
in our lifetime.
It’s not that there are not a wide variety of animals, fish, birds or reptiles in the world. The problem is that the remaining available wildlife
lacks the characteristics necessary for an animal totem. For example, the
Otter® is adorable and displays a characteristic slipperiness that arguably
might suit some law firms to a “T.” But is it
tough enough? Is it aggressive enough? One
only need envision a counter-advertising campaign showing an Otter® being dragged off
into the sky by an Eagle® or shaken in the jaws
of a Wolf® to recognize that while this might
make a gripping episode of Animal Planet, it
will never make for good law firm marketing.
The same objection applies to ferocious
animals that lack a certain fundamental
charm. For example, the Hyena® is a fierce and
able predator whose predilection for mercilessly attacking the weak and vulnerable might
make it the perfect totem for certain law
firms. And there is little doubt that a pack of
hyenas could hold its own against other totem
animals, or at least beat a dignified, albeit
snarling and slavering, retreat—again, providing a rich metaphor for legal practitioners.
But who loves the Hyena®?
And what of young lawyers? Shall they
eventually be forced to choose between crustaceans? Will we see the day
of the Lobster® lawyer? Will it come down to Parakeets® and Tree
Shrews® Or will they be reduced to using inanimate objects as
marketing icons? Will the legal profession eventually settle the
grudge match between Rock®, Paper® and Scissors® Say that it
may not be so!
Clearly a fairer solution is required. There must be an equitable way to distribute (and periodically redistribute) totem animals. The critical flaw in the current system is that all the “good”
animals are chosen first. While random assignment has substantial merit as indisputably fair,
this is unlikely to console the
THE LAST WORD MY by John Curtin
Lions and Tigers and Bears
(A Modest Proposal)
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The Last Word has been a part of ARIZONA ATTORNEY since 2004. And we
believe its mission—to enlighten and enliven—has been a success.
Essays in “My Last Word” are occasional full-page viewpoints by lawyers
outside our circle of magazine columnists. We still welcome letters to
the editor, but longer pieces have a home here.
Welcome to “My Last Word,” a place for members’ own musings.
JOHN CURTIN was born in a
snowbank in Northern
Wisconsin. He was raised by a
pack of feral badgers. This proba-
bly explains a lot about his charac-
ter, as well as his legal career.
lawyers who draw the Sea Slug®, the Dik-dik® or the Lesser Sloth® as their symbols of
This is why I propose that totem animals
be assigned by opposing lawyers.
This may strike many as arbitrary, but I
would submit that in fact it is the opposite.
If anything, it is too apt. Who knows the
ways of the Eagle® better than its prey?
Who can gauge the aggression of the
Lion® or the Wolf®
like the Deer® or the
Antelope® This not
only will free up
some noble beasts
that have been caged
by the confines of
trademark and copy-
right, it undoubted-
ly will bring a vast
new array of animals
into the fray. Why,
the mere addition of
reptiles to the cus-
tomary array of legal
mascots will vastly
expand our market-
new system might
There will be a temptation to associate
opponents with various loathsome crea-
tures—the Vulture®, the Weasel®, the
Manatee® and the Giant Rat of Sumatra®
are certainly subject to abuse. However, the
propensity toward retaliatory mascoting
will eventually and inevitably die down.
Not every lawyer is a Skunk Bear®, just as
not every lawyer is Lion®. There are only so
many iconic creatures available. In time, we
will learn to be judicious about who we
deem a Dung Beetle®.
see the extinction
animals in our