HawkLaw fights muzzling efforts of “hawks” in lawsuit
True to its name – reminiscent of a predatory bird at the top of the food chain that hunts, strikes and eats its death – Columbia-based law firm HawkLaw is fighting efforts to curb its advertising and possibly even her name.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court of Columbia, HawkLaw and his namesake attorney John Hawkins said attempts by powerful SC attorney watch groups to fend off the firm’s aggressive advertisements are illegal.
If HawkLaw loses the lawsuit, he may not be able to keep his name or use his brand of catchy TV commercials. These commercials include howling hawks, wild car crashes, a paid actor dancing in a TV commercial after getting a $ 3 million settlement (a real case, according to the firm), and phrases like “Expect to more “and” funny money guy in a suit, “according to the lawsuit.
HawkLaw has constitutional rights to free speech under the First Amendment, the firm’s lawsuit says, and South Carolina attorney watch groups can’t censor it.
Ginny Jones, spokesperson for the SC Court Administration, says her agency does not comment on pending litigation. The court administration includes the two defendants in the HawkLaw trial: the SC Commission on the Conduct of Lawyers and the SC Disciplinary Board Office. Both groups are investigating allegations of misconduct by lawyers.
Company names are very important to a company’s identity, and many law firms typically take their names from firm attorneys, said Jeffrey Williams, director of advertising at the School of Journalism and Mass. Communications from the University of South Carolina.
“Shortening the (Hawkins) name to HawkLaw is a smart business move,” said Williams, whose comments were about branding in general – not the merits of the ongoing legal controversy.
“You wouldn’t want to be called Chickadee Law Firm,” Williams said. “The name of a business can be quite meaningful.”
So far, the battle between HawkLaw and Hawkins against lawyer watch groups has been fought out of public view.
Recently, the Hawklaw trial claims, behind-the-scenes disciplinary efforts have threatened to discipline John Hawkins and even remove him from the practice of law.
“The defendants are seeking to sue for breach of professional conduct (and) could subject John Hawkins to disciplinary action up to the expungement or suspension of his legal license,” says the lawsuit HawkLaw.
“The defendants have violated and are currently violating the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment (HawkLaw) rights to free speech by … using the disciplinary process to chill free speech,” says the HawkLaw lawsuit.
Watch groups oppose HawkLaw’s advertisements because they find them “obnoxious and unpleasant without proof that they mislead, confuse, or infringe any substantial government interest,” says the HawkLaw lawsuit.
In any event, the HawkLaw trial represents a rare publicity of a dispute between lawyers and state legal ethics groups.
Lawyer watch groups do not have to file their responses to the HawkLaw trial until Tuesday.
Once the response is filed, Justice Childs could request written submissions from either side on the issues or set a date for a hearing, or both.
The HawkLaw lawsuit cites some of the watchdog complaints against the company and Hawkins.
On the one hand, watch groups claim that Hawkins’ use of the name “HawkLaw” and his occasional references to himself as “The Hawk” in advertisements mislead the public and violate the ethics of the company. lawyer, which prohibits lawyers from using terms that imply getting results in a case.
The trial aims to have:
▪ Justice Michelle Childs declares unconstitutional those sections of the South Carolina Lawyers’ Code of Conduct that are used to target HawkLaw’s name and advertising.
▪ Justice Childs is staying state bar disciplinary proceedings against HawkLaw and Hawkins until the case can be fully presented in federal court.
Nolan Schillerstrom of the Audubon Society in South Carolina said the many species of falcons are definitely raptors and highly regarded by many birders.
“I really think hawks are a beloved animal,” said Schillerstrom. “They are fun to watch, easy to see, and also just awesome birds in general.”
According to the Wyoming-based Teton Raptor Center:
▪ “Raptors are birds of prey that feed on live captured prey or carrion. Typically, birds of prey have to kill things in order to make a living! ”
▪ Raptors have strong gripping legs with sharp talons for gripping their prey, a hook bill for tearing them apart, and a diet of “all meat”.
▪ “Raptors are predatory animals and are often at the top of the food chain in most places they live.”
Columbia attorney Robert Dodson, who represents HawkLaw, declined to comment.
The legal watch groups are represented by four lawyers from the unnamed Avian law firm Nexsen Pruet: Sara Svedberg, Susan McWilliams, Angus Macauley Jr. and Brittany Clark.
HawkLaw, with 16 attorneys, has offices in Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg and Charleston. The firm is a personal injury firm, which means its lawyers represent people who have been injured on the job, in car or bicycle crashes, or other types of injuries – even dog bites. It has collected “millions” for its customers, its website says.