Should limitations be imposed on the use of mascots?
One South Carolina law firm claims to have been unfairly targeted
Several news sources (The Post and Courier, The State, AP News) have recently published stories involving a South Carolina law firm with a mascot problem.
According to the news reports, South Carolina attorney John Hawkins said he has been unfairly targeted by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel because of his law firm’s mascot, a hawk. You have probably seen the television ads showing the hawk and actors flapping their arms like hawks to promote the firm’s personal injury practice.
Hawkins has purportedly sued the ODC in Federal Court complaining that the ODC has reached a settlement with another legal entity that uses a tiger as a mascot for a national network of motorcycle accident attorneys styled “Law Tigers.”
Mr. Hawkins has complained in court filings that his mascot is a three-pound bird that eats mice, squirrels, and other small animals, while Law Tiger’s mascot is a 400-plus pound animal that mauls, attacks and eats people. Which mascot, he questions, unfairly represents the ability to “obtain results” in the personal injury arena?
The news reports indicate that two rival law firms and a former employee all filed complaints with the ODC about the hawk mascot in 2017. This year, the ODC filed formal disciplinary charges.
Hawkins’ lawsuit purportedly makes constitutional arguments against the ODC’s enforcement action. I’m not a litigator, but it seems to me that the place to make this argument is in the disciplinary action itself. It never occurred to me that the ODC could be sued in Federal Court.
What do you think, dirt lawyers? Will that suit be dismissed? Can advertising using mascots unfairly tout a law firm’s strength and ability? Are potential clients confused or unduly influenced by the use of mascots? It will be interesting to see how this story plays out.