When it’s your business on the line, you need a Wildman, said an old ad campaign by Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon. ()
With another big firm merger comes the end of two storied legal names.
The completion of the merger between Edwards Wildman Palmer and Locke Lord this past weekend will see the Wildman and Palmer names fall away from the new firm’s shingle, although the Edwards name will initially stick around.
A spokesman for the newly minted Locke Lord Edwards told The Am Law Daily in a statement that Locke Lord LLP will remain the official “legal name” of the combined 1,000-lawyer firm, with the Locke Lord Edwards name being used “as second reference in marketing/branding materials.”
In the aftermath of Squire Sanders’ merger with Patton Boggs last year, The Am Law Daily reported on the difficulty many large firms face in branding a three-word firm name, since conversationally two words often suffice as an identifier. Ross Fishman, a litigator-turned-branding-consultant for big firms in his role as CEO of Highland Park, Ill.-based Fishman Marketing, spoke with The Am Law Daily for that story. And he’s intimately familiar with one of the name partners lost to the annals of Am Law 200 history following the latest merger involving Edwards Wildman.
“Max Wildman was a true gentleman, an exceptional trial lawyer and one of the pillars of the legal community in Chicago,” says Fishman of the cofounder of legacy firm Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, which merged with Boston-based Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge in 2011 to form Edwards Wildman Palmer. Wildman died that same year, but besides his courtroom exploits, the longtime litigator saw his name serve as the impetus for a classic law firm branding campaign.
In a blog post shortly before Edwards Wildman’s merger with Locke Lord went live on Jan. 10, Fishman rued the loss of the Wildman name, which back in 2000 was shaved into the back of a head of a nondescript big-firm litigator under the moniker, “When it’s your business on the line, you need a Wildman.”
The advertisement might not have garnered the accolades bestowed on other famous branding campaigns like the now-defunct Bingham McCutchen bear cradling a human baby, but Fishman, who worked with late Wildman Harrold marketing partner H. Roderic Heard in crafting the “Wildman” ad, fondly recalls it as being one of the more aggressive in recent memory.
“It was originally developed for law school recruiting,” says Fishman, noting the hot market for new associates at the turn of the century. “[Wildman Harrold] was this firm of great Chicago litigators, and they wanted to stand out in a competitive market and target top new talent.”
But in 2002 the firm chose to brand itself as Wildman Harrold, moving away from the stand-alone Wildman name. Fishman didn’t work on the rebranding campaign and says he was sad to see the firm not fully embrace the name, although he notes there were understandable reasons for why it was wary about doing so.
Wildman Harrold represented gun manufacturers and the tobacco industry, Fishman says, so a “Wildman” reputation was something that could unnerve current and potential clients. Fishman adds there was also the fact that a phone number at the time, 1-800-WILDMAN, offered to provide callers with something else besides legal services. (Hint: The hotline may have been for the world’s oldest profession.)
“There haven’t been many [law firm] names as interesting or unique as Wildman,” says Fishman, who was uninvolved in the various negotiations over the past few years that saw the Wildman Harrold name negotiated away through a series of mergers and combinations.
Heard, the former Wildman Harrold marketing maestro who also served as a member of its executive committee and chair of its litigation department before leaving the firm in a high-profile lateral move in 2010, died in early 2013 after battling cancer. In December another former Wildman Harrold cofounder, Stewart Dixon, died at 84.
Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge traces its roots back to the 19th century. A firm spokeswoman says that Walter Angell and Stephen Edwards founded Edwards & Angell on May 1, 1894, while Palmer & Dodge was founded as Storey, Thorndike & Hoar on April 1, 1887 by Moorfield Storey, a Boston lawyer and civil rights leader.
“Bradley W. Palmer came to the firm in 1891, and Robert Dodge joined the firm on May 1, 1910,” says the Edwards Wildman spokeswoman, who notes that its predecessor firm Storey Thorndike was renamed Palmer & Dodge in 1968, a year after Wildman Harrold was formed in Chicago by a group of insurance litigators peeling off from Kirkland & Ellis.
Charles DeWitt Jr., the now retired managing partner of Palmer & Dodge, which merged in 2005 with Rhode Island’s largest firm Edwards & Angell, couldn’t recall exactly who Bradley Palmer was in a phone call Monday afternoon. “I think he did bond work, but that was way before my time,” he joked, before declining to comment about his former firm’s latest name change.
Palmer, whose father Henry was a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the turn of the 20th century, did indeed do bond work for the Boston Fruit Company, going on to handle the merger that turned it into the United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita Brands International. Palmer also represented Sinclair Oil during the Teapot Dome scandal and served as a member of President Woodrow Wilson’s staff at the Versailles Peace Conference after World War I.
Palmer died in 1946 and donated his significant land holdings to the commonwealth of Massachusetts, where his name currently appears on Bradley Palmer State Park north of Boston. While his namesake firm never trumped up his name in marketing campaigns, it did have some fun with Angell, trotting out “the Angell’s in the details” in a long-lost marketing campaign.
Like Edwards Wildman, Locke Lord adopted its current name in late 2011, shortening its shingle after a series of mergers in prior years. The firm’s Chicago-based predecessor Lord, Bissell & Brook also engaged in brand-name play, using “Lord of the Deal” many years ago.