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Far be it from me to quibble, but I fear the legal profession is falling behind in the branding wars again. For example, I happened to notice that Diet Sprite has reinvented itself as Diet Sprite “Zero,” the ultramodern soft drink; the “zero” apparently refers to its lack of carbs or fat rather than the lack of any change in its taste. And then in the candy display by the grocery store check-out line, there was a display featuring Snickers bars with almonds, for heaven’s sake, as yet another icon of my childhood attempts to move itself up the market. And then, as I was getting a carry-out sandwich, I noticed that the deli was trumpeting the fact that it serves nothing but the patented “Dickinson strawberry,” whose attributes apparently include industrial-strength sweetness and flavor and incredible symmetry of shape. And this is just scratching the surface. SO WHERE ARE WE? Let’s start with the American Bar Association, more or less the umbrella for all of us in one way or another. Do we get the ABA equivalent of Dickinson strawberries when we visit its Web site? No indeed. We get “HIPAA AdSi Privacy Rule Disclosures: Document & Information Production in Litigation and Beyond.” Now, admit it, are HIPAA AdSi Privacy Rule Disclosures something you’d really want to roll out if you want to influence those crucial undecided voters? Or anybody in that crucial 18-49 demographic? I don’t think so. But we don’t have to be stuck with HIPAA AdSi Privacy Rule Disclosures. Truly we don’t. If Snickers can go upscale by substituting almonds for peanuts, we ought to be able to think of something. In fact, if you have a few minutes I can think of more than a few things lawyers can do to get our extreme makeover well and truly under way. First, we could play the Pixar card. All we have to do is change one word in the title of that HIPAA seminar to go from zero to hero. Have you figured it out? Change “in” to “to” and you’ve got it. Before: “HIPAA AdSi Privacy Rule Disclosures: Document & Information Production in Litigation and Beyond.” After: “HIPAA AdSi Privacy Rule Disclosures: Document & Information Production to Litigation and Beyond.” Got what, you say? Why the ABA’s new superhero, of course. We’ll call him Buzz Litigator of Bar Command (a part of the Holistic Intergalactic Police Agency of Arcturus, of course) and pretty soon his uplifting cry — “To litigation … and beyond!” will be heard from kids throughout the world. And the merchandizing? Well, just think about the action figures, spin-off DVDs, Halloween costumes, breakfast foods, multivitamins and toys this will generate. And all we had to do was tinker with a single preposition. IT’S IN THE STARS Another quick image fix could be achieved by adding another B to ABA to get ABBA. Yes, I know we’ve turned a large, staid organization of attorneys into a late ’70s Swedish quasi-disco pop act, but making everyone wear disco costumes and getting their hair shagged while singing “Can you hear the judge, Fernando?” probably would do more to boost our image for trustworthiness than anything else we could come up with on short notice. And if we agree in advance to split the royalties with Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Kristian Ulvaeus and Agnetha Ase F�ltskog, I’m thinking we’re bulletproof on the infringement front. On the other hand, I’m perfectly prepared to admit that borrowing the image of the group who gave us “Waterloo” as our ticket to the future is just as likely to be a one-way ticket to a 3 a.m. Time-Life Greatest Hits of the ’70s infomercial as to renewed professional vitality. I just think everybody should be aware of the opportunities here. But as appealing as these choices are, especially when you remember we started with HIPAA compliance, let me suggest that if we drill a little deeper we have our best opportunity to project that edgy, out-of-the-box ambience we’ve been wanting. All we have to do is, well, borrow a word from the business that may be the poster child for cool here in the first decade of the 21st century. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Starbucks. You may not have thought of this as you lined up for your venti, soy, white chocolate, mocha frappuccino this morning while listening to music carefully focus-grouped to ensure that it is properly cool enough to enhance your personal frappuccino experience, but the guy with the tattoos and piercings who put together your high-energy concoction is known as a “barista.” And there it is, right there with that indefinable and vaguely toxic goo that’s left in the bottom of your cup. Change “bar” to “barista” and we’re there. The American Barista Association. Modern. Edgy. Tattooed. Even pierced, although not necessarily where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could notice during oral argument. And the dress code? What better way to move what’s de rigeur from Hart Schaffner & Marx to Hollister? So you see, we can do this. We can get back to where we need to be on the crest of the cool wave, and all you have to do is leave a good tip for your macchiato in the morning. What could be easier than that? Tom Alleman, a shareholder in the insurance and environmental practice groups at Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Dallas, has the temerity to ask for “coffee” whenever he goes to Starbucks. Is it any wonder that what he thinks is not necessarily the opinion of the firm, its clients or Juan Valdez?

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