The Big Lebowski is an independent film loved by most white people and some others. It’s the story of a hapless slacker, Jeff Lebowski, who calls himself “the Dude,” drinks White Russians, and bowls with friends Walter and Donny. Because many new lawyers and a few others identify strongly with these attributes, the film has become a cult classic. You can extend the film’s popularity to your law firm with attractive marketing and brand identity strategies. While it’s not difficult to build a Lebowski-driven practice, a few key considerations should guide you.
You should have already followed our advice and installed an office bar. Drinking White Russians, the Dude’s drink of choice, will be easy. Two shots Vodka, one shot Kahlua, and light cream over ice in a lowball glass. Don’t have an office bar? You’re a nudnik who should be practicing law from a Seattle’s Best in Utah.
Eschew the Suit
If you wear a suit in the office or while driving a Ford Torino to court, knock it off. Attire is an essential part of Lebowski rebranding. Just to be clear, rebrand your practice around Jeff Lebowski, not the elder Lebowski in the movie, who, come to think of it, resembles a number of judges. Keep at least two Cowichan-type Pendleton cardigans in the office or at home. Wear Jellies, which should be easy if you are already wearing flip flops at Starbucks. Shorts are a necessity but are not always required, especially if you have a court appearance. A straggly beard is highly recommended, as it will exude the proper brand identity. A beard, however, is not required for female lawyers, but consider reducing your personal hygiene to account for a less gendered interpretation of the brand.
Adjust Your Language
It’s easy to go overboard on this one and end up being cutesy, or worse, fucking annoying. But some phrases are subtle enough that you can establish a Lebowski-driven practice with just a few quick snippets of popular phrases. For instance, in briefs and correspondence, refer to the opposing party as a “nihilist” (but clarify in a footnote that a nihilist should not be confused with a Nazi). Use “parlance of our times” as a preforatory phrase in letters to the court and in addressing staff and clients.
Don’t overuse “I’m the Dude” or substitute “Your Honor” with “Man.” We’re talking about an identity repackaging initiative, not a mid-life crisis (we recommend that you use the phrase “exude the Dude” as a way to emphasize this). You should avoid a few other quotes or phrases in your practice, as they either give you away as a nutjob or they will offend die hard Big Lebowski fans. It’s a fine line between the nut house and successful rebranding.
- Don’t tell the court that you “burned one on the way over.” You may get time just for saying it.
- Avoid Overcussing. Though the Dude and others drop the F-bomb nearly 300 times in the movie, you can only say fuck so many times without people thinking you learned it from your big brother yesterday. Be mature. You are in a profession, not a business.
- Avoid saying “this aggression will not stand.” The Dude’s quoting former president George H.W. Bush. Because many federal judges are Bush appointees, any irony will be lost on them, particularly when they look at your attire and ask you about the White Russian in your hand.
Furnish Your Office Appropriately
First, buy a woodchipper and either keep it in your office next to your bar or carry it with you to the coffice to meet your clients. I know that the Big Lebowski did not have a woodchipper. But when people see a woodchipper anywhere they think one of two things: “Steve Buscemi” or “what the hell is that?” For the majority of people who think of Steve Buscemi, it’s just a short jaunt to Donny, the Dude’s friend.
In addition to the woodchipper, get a rug that ties the room together. Don’t EVER use that phrase in front of your clients. Just get a rug that ties the room together. Your clients will make the connection easily. But don’t let them pee on the rug.
Finally, get a swing that hangs from the ceiling of your office and have your secretary swing naked from it just before client meetings. It’s an effective way to keep clients on their toes and interested in having a White Russian. Careful, though, about potentially sticky federal employment laws. Swinging naked from a swing in your office may not seem work-related, but it is if it’s related to your brand. Don’t get in trouble by failing to pay your secretary for that time and winding up in a lawsuit over overtime wages. FLSA claims suck. Bigtime.
We consider these the basics of any effort to rebrand successfully to a Lebowski-driven practice. Keep in mind that, because of the immense popularity of The Big Lebowski, there are plenty of resources and merchandising available to you on the web. In addition, you are not limited to a Lebowski-driven practice. Attorneys are currently implementing steps to rebrand themselves as Sobchak-driven firms and Kerabatsos-driven firms, though with mixed results. No matter what you do, though, we hope you continue to exude the Dude.
Quick question: What’s your take on responding to opposing counsel’s motion for adjournment with: “Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit!” ?
C. Hank Peters says
Great question and example. We’re big believers in having a “plausible deniability” strategy embedded into your firm, something we posted recently on our Facebook page. With such a strategy you would have a matrix of decision making factors that could help you make this decision. For us, we would advise you to use this phrase but only after you’ve hired an intern and only if the phrase is handwritten. When push comes to shove, blame it on the intern and say “And, you know, he’s got emotional problems, man.”
Yes, fucking A….The Dude doth abide !