Loud and proud of his Texas roots, Bryan E. Wilson was born and raised in Fort Worth. Bryan, otherwise...
In this episode, Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk, explains how he got started making outrageous viral videos, name-drops another outrageous, viral video–making Texas lawyer, Adam Reposa, and has some tips for lawyers who want to try making videos of their own.
Bryan Wilson, better known as the Texas Law Hawk, opened up his law firm in 2014 and chose the loudest path he could in his ridiculous YouTube videos. His third video went viral and led to several other commercial appearances, including the 2016 Super Bowl commercials for Taco Bell. He plans on doing more commercials as long as they keep making people laugh.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Lawyerist Podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: I’m Aaron Street and this Episode 103 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today we’re talking with Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Spotlight Branding. Learn how they use the internet to make all of your law firm marketing and business development more profitable by visiting spotlightbranding.com/lawyerist.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Fresh Books, which is ridiculously easy to use and packed with powerful features. Try it now at freshbooks.com/lawyerist and enter “Lawyerist” into the, “How did you hear about us,” section.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ruby Receptionists and its smart, charming receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit callruby.com/lawyerist to get a risk-free trial with Ruby.
Aaron Street: Sam, two weeks ago in our podcast when we were talking about the fitness lawyer, we talked about authentically creating a niche for your practice and not creating bullshit niches in areas that might grow a business, but in which you aren’t actually relevant to that industry. Today we’re talking with the Texas Law Hawk, who is famous on the internet for his viral law firm commercials for his criminal law practice in Texas. I think a lot of people see his explosions and insane humor and assume that he is the most phony guy on the internet.
The reality is we’ve gotten to know Bryan a little bit, that he would be making ridiculous videos with his buddies whether or not he was a lawyer and whether or not he could use them for law firm ads. He certainly, without that, wouldn’t have been on a Super Bowl ad, but he’d be doing these ridiculous projects anyway and, therefore, as artificial as the content of his videos often is, him doing them is pretty authentic to what he’s all about. I wanted to talk about some of the subtlety in law firm marketing as it relates to whether the activities you’re doing are authentic to you practice and your personality or not.
Sam Glover: Yeah, I think Bryan’s videos work for a couple of reasons anyway. One, in one of the videos at least, he smiles and laughs at the camera so you understand that he’s in on the joke. The other is, as you mentioned, he would be making ridiculous videos full of explosions with his buddies anyway.
I think what you’ll hear during our conversation is that he is sincere in his desire to educate the public about legal issues, which for all their silliness, his videos accomplish. I guess all of that is to say it works because Bryan is just doing what he would do anyway. So many lawyers seem to go out there and do marketing that they are uncomfortable doing and it comes across as stiff TV ads, or gross billboards, or just lame billboards, or whatever. They are clearly doing marketing, whereas Bryan is up there having fun in a way that has a side effect of promoting his firm.
Aaron Street: Yeah, and so I think the issue at play here, there are a couple. One is good marketing usually is real, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without a plan. The fact that the Texas Law Hawk would be creating some stuntman videos anyway doesn’t mean that he’s not trying to grow his plan with a firm. This isn’t just an ad hoc hobby for him. Having a marketing plan makes sense and is completely justifiable. I think the artificiality of just doing stuff because a consultant told you to or competitors are doing it, whether that’s Yellow Pages ad or trying to rank high in Google for keywords, I think often loses the natural ability to connect with the people you’re trying to connect with by being real.
That said, I think another tension is that if you just try to be authentic and be yourself, I think too frequently lawyers then just don’t do marketing or don’t do good marketing because it doesn’t feel natural to them. That’s why too many small firms aren’t run as great businesses because business skills aren’t something that lots of lawyers grew up understanding and it doesn’t feel natural, and therefore, if I’m just going to do things that feel good and feel natural, then growing a successful business often isn’t a priority.
Sam Glover: Yeah, most people have things that they do in their day-to-day life, whether it’s church, or a hobby, or whatever, a sport, whatever, that you can consider that ways to market within that or you can use that in a way that is going to help get your name out there and bring in business that is not phony, that is just thinking about that thing in another way. I guess if you are a lawyer whose inclination is to sit in your office all day and never talk to anybody, then that’s not going to work probably very well. Although, you can do that and be super active in the online gaming forums or something like that and you can spread your marketing in there, but the trick is to just be genuine and authentic.
I keep using that word authentic. It kind of drives me crazy because it’s one of these woo-woo catchwords now, but it’s true. We are good at spotting phonies. If people think that you’re just trying to sell at them, they’re not going to be receptive to what you’re selling. Whereas, if you truly believe in what you’re selling them and you’re selling it to people who are inclined to know, like, and trust you because you have a connection, it’s going to be a lot easier.
Aaron Street: Absolutely. That’s why we’re excited to have this interview with Bryan to talk about the videos he made, recognizing that quite literally no one else who’s listening should probably be doing stuntman videos to market their law firm.
Sam Glover: Bryan is going to touch on that. If you don’t know who Bryan is, if you have the ability to do it, you might want to pause this podcast, go look up Texas Law Hawk on YouTube and watch his third video, which is kind of his introduction to the greater internet, and then listen to the rest of the podcast. Or listen to the rest of the podcast because if you aren’t interested by now, I think you will be in about 10 seconds. Here’s my conversation with the Texas Law Hawk.
Bryan Wilson: This is Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk. I’m a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, and I make the wildest commercials you’ve ever seen.
Sam Glover: That’s the loudest introduction, I think, we’ve had on the podcast. I love it. Hey, Bryan. How are you?
Bryan Wilson: Hey, how’s it going? Doing wonderful. Doing great. What about you?
Sam Glover: I’m doing great. All right, Texas Law Hawk.
Bryan Wilson: Did I just break all the microphones in there?
Sam Glover: No way. Tell me, we see your YouTube persona, but I’m curious about what the actual law practice looks like. How big is the firm? Are you inundated with clients? Give me a picture of what your actual law firm looks like.
Bryan Wilson: The actual law firm, for whatever reason, people think I’m a sprawling manor of a law firm across several cities and hundreds of assistants and that’s just not how it is. It’s me. I was just solo practitioner, by myself without an assistant for a really long time. I’ve gone through a couple of assistants, but really for the most part, I’m the only attorney that I’ve hired and yeah, it’s a lot of fun. Mostly criminal defense. Thinking about expanding into personal injury.
Yeah, it’s far smaller than everyone thinks, especially when I get calls about donating to things. Everybody’s like, “Oh yeah, hey, can you just make a quick $10,000 donation? It just a small $10,000.” I’m like, “Are you serious?”
Sam Glover: You’ve been in a Super Bowl commercial.
Bryan Wilson: I mean, yeah, I was in a Super Bowl commercial. That helped and that was pretty awesome, but I mean that’s one commercial. It’s not like a movie that gets DVD residuals. Yeah, once it starts playing on TNT or something like that, they’re going to get residuals from that, or 10 seasons of a series. It’s not that. It’s just one … Well, it’s two Super Bowl commercials.
Yeah, it was awesome what happened, but I’m not even close to done yet. I’m going to keep making wilder and wilder commercials until I figure out a way to … I always wanted to be a stunt double when I was younger. Actually, I wasn’t even going to go to college, or especially not law school. I was going to go to stunt school until my senior year. I shattered bone in both my ankles, or chipped bone pretty bad. That kind of put the stuntman dream on the side, but I figured out a weird way where I get to actually do minor league stunts.
Sam Glover: In a totally weird way, yes.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. It’s a blast. People love it. For the most part. Some people just hate my guts with everything they’ve got.
Sam Glover: Well, of course.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah, they’ve narrowed down a lot. When the first one was released, the vast majority were like, “Ah, this guy’s such a jackass. What does he think he’s doing? What an idiot.”
Sam Glover: Hold on. Tell me about that. Why did you start making videos and how did you arrive at your manner of making videos?
Bryan Wilson: These are all my best friends helping me make these. We’ve been making videos since we met. It was one of the first things we ever did when we hung out when we were about 14 or 15 years old.
Sam Glover: Not for your law firm, though, just for … Okay.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah.
Sam Glover: Just for fun.
Bryan Wilson: Just for fun or for projects for school. We would just sit down and say, “Hey, instead of writing a paper or making some kind of presentation, can we make a video for this and turn it in?” Our English teachers would say yes because they were like, “Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun,” even way back then.
I actually found our first little VHS recorder. It’s something you can shove a full-size VHS into and just start recording. That’s what we started with is just making videos. They were really bad back then. We didn’t have editing software, so we had to shoot as we went type editing. Like, “Oh, quick. Shot’s the same.” We’ve been doing it for a long time and it just was a natural transition. I got the nickname Law Hawk in law school. I think I got the domain name as well and I was thinking okay-
Sam Glover: Is that like a late-night, you’re having beers in study sessions or something? How does that come about?
Bryan Wilson: You’ve got it pretty damn close, actually. We were really over-tired in mock trial my first year. We were all sitting there just exhausted. It was 3:00 in the morning in a library. We’re all sitting there, “You know what we need? We need power animals.” Somebody said, “What about the Legal Eagle?” I said, “No, that’s too cheesy. What about the Law Hawk?” Everyone started laughing in the room and they just fired me up. I got up on my feet and just started like, “Ah, yeah. That’s what it is. That’s the Law Hawk.”
From there, that small group of people started calling me Law Hawk and then it expanded and expanded until my third year and that’s what people would call me. That was really cool that it worked out that way, but I had to make a decision right when I was graduating: “Am I going to open up shop or am I going to go be a prosecutor somewhere? Am I going to work in the Federal Defender’s Office?” Federal Defender’s Office said no. That made it a lot easier because I was interning at a prosecutor’s office and I knew that that wasn’t right for me. I just kept getting chastised for dismissing so many cases.
I eventually came to the realization that, “I just have to open up shop. I think it’s going to be the best thing for me.” It was kind of weird because there’s a stigma out there for people who open up shop right out of school that, “Oh, this guy’s either a shithead or too dumb to function in a law firm and, therefore, he has to be a solo practitioner.” I would counter there’s no other career that has more flexibility than a solo practitioner. I love it that way. I like flexibility. I like to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. As long as I get everything done and don’t screw up, then I’m going to keep getting clients and having a blast.
Sam Glover: You’ve identified for me a couple of things that I wasn’t sure about, which is you watch your videos, and I watched your video, and at first there’s this inclination to be like, “God, that guy, he makes lawyers look like idiots,” but you don’t. I don’t know, I kind of like that guy. He seems like fun. He seems like he’s not taking it too seriously and he’s just having a good time with it.
I guess it’s like all the social media marketers are all about, “Be authentic.” I guess that’s it, right? You’re making the kinds of movies that you might have made anyway with your friends. You’re being this character that you came up with with your friends. Maybe you’re just doing the stuff you would do otherwise, but you’re just doing it on camera.
Bryan Wilson: If I didn’t do it for my law firm, we would probably still make random videos. I don’t know, but if one of us opened up a business, we’d do it for that. I was the first one, I guess, that actually opened up a business and it worked out perfectly. These videos, yeah, it’s not somebody who I’m not. I love yelling and breaking stuff and making people laugh. I get to do all those things and hang out with my best friends. It’s a lot of fun.
I’m learning lessons with each one. I’m going to put out videos that don’t do as well, as I’ve seen lately. The first one, we had to take down because of the Ad Review Committee. The second one, almost had to take that one down, but it didn’t really take off. Third one-
Sam Glover: What was the problem with the first one?
Bryan Wilson: There’s a few sections in it. This is the first one. I’m sitting here thinking, “I’ve never seen anything like this video that I’m about to send to them. What the hell are they going to say? They’re going to have a problem with me taking the laptop out of the cop’s hands, clearly.” That wasn’t what they said. They had a problem because there was a few times in there … Commercial starts like, “Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk,” and then there’s another snap zoom of me just saying, “Law Hawk.”
Sam Glover: I think I saw that one before it came down.
Bryan Wilson: Did you?
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Bryan Wilson: There were a few places where I just said, “Law Hawk,” and they said, “Well, it could cause confusion as to who this Law Hawk character is and that really could serve to cause some confusion amongst”-
Sam Glover: Am I correct that you still have to send in your videos on VHS tape by mail or something like that?
Bryan Wilson: No. You have to mail them in. Yeah. Actually, I felt like I got a better relationship with them with the fourth video.
Sam Glover: Well, they’d probably seen a couple of Adam Reposa’s videos by that point.
Bryan Wilson: I love him so much.
Sam Glover: I mean, we’ve got two Texans making some pretty weird commercials.
Bryan Wilson: Oh man. He is so funny. He actually, after I released the first one, he called me up and was like, “Law Hawk, this is Reposa. What are you doing this weekend?” I’m like, “Oh man, hanging out with you. Where are you? You’re in Austin?”
Sam Glover: Are you going to have an all-star team-up at some point?
Bryan Wilson: He goes for pure, raw, shock value and he gets the job done. When we try to collaborate, the few times we’ve tried to, I don’t think we’re going to find middle ground that I can see.
Sam Glover: You’re not into oiling yourself up in your underpants on your desk? That’s not your thing?
Bryan Wilson: God. He is so damned funny. I don’t know if I can do that.
Sam Glover: He’s him, too.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. I mean we had an idea where we teach people a lesson in self-defense with hot babes in bikinis. Yeah, I’m supposed to punch one of these chicks in the face in self-defense. I’m like, “Man, I wouldn’t. No. I’m not doing that.”
Sam Glover: Got you.
Bryan Wilson: He goes for shock value and his are still so incredibly funny, but I’m going for – what I’ve been trying to do at least – is make them really, really funny to where even when I was reading the script, they’re making people laugh. I can tell the difference between ones that are going to do well and ones that aren’t now just by reading through the script. If it makes me laugh, makes people laugh when I tell them about it, then I think it’s going to do better than the ones that I think explain why it’s going to be funny.
Sam Glover: Do you write the scripts?
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. I just write them. Usually what I do is I’m always writing. Anytime I’m watching a funny movie or read something funny or have something that makes me laugh aloud that I could possibly translate into an idea, I write it down into a master list of ridiculousness that’s on my phone. Then whenever I get a little bit of angst building up to where I feel like I need to go make another commercial or see a legal lesson that I think needs to be taught to people, then I just go and I throw in ideas where they fit.
Most recently, this new idea I’ve got just came from a video I watched that made me laugh so hard. I can’t reveal that one, because I think people would use it. I’m telling you people would jump all over this. Somebody would beat me to the punch. Basically, if I see something funny out there, I make sure I write it down, otherwise I will definitely forget about it. Then I just organize it into a script.
I eventually, once I figure out who I think should be involved with it, I send them an invite, “Hey, here’s the script. What do you all think about it?” They make little notes on a Google Docs format. Most of my friends are living down in Austin now. My former cameraman and editor lives in Austin and I’ve got another guy that’s going to help me out with this most recent one. Actually, I’m thinking about filming one here mid-January, another one.
Sam Glover: I was going to ask you who do you hire, and how do you pick somebody, and who writes the script, and how much does it cost? Are you still putting them all together with friends and basically doing it just on your own time? Or are you now trying to pay people to make the videos?
Bryan Wilson: I always pay my friends. I always tell them, “Hey, whatever you think is fair for your work, just tell me and I’ll give you a check.” That’s how it goes whenever my friends are just making them. However, there’s a few times it’s expanded to where a company has hired me and we have a certain budget. Those shoots are very different.
I’m starting to figure out that the best thing to do is figure out what your budget is and work within it instead of just, “I want this to happen and I’m going to make it happen, even if I have to build the damn Christmas sleigh in my garage.” Yeah, those shoots kind of get chaotic and they end up being a little bit more pricey. I spent quite a bit of money on the jet ski, the boat cops commercial, and quite a bit of money on the Christmas commercial and neither of them got as many hits as the third commercial, which was far less of a budget.
I think probably where a trend is going – this is the first time I’ve really talked about this since I’ve noticed it – but I think there’s a trend to making more videos and making them shorter that I’m going to either follow or start, if it hasn’t already started. Because otherwise I’d be only able to release one every six months and then just hope that it’s going to go viral. I think if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, I need to release more of them and shorter versions of them. This next one is going to be about 30 seconds long as compared to when we were really striving to keep the script under two minutes.
What I tell people is videos are the way to go. If you want to get attention, you don’t have to make budget ridiculousness and risk your life. It’s where I thought it was going because the third one went viral when I increased the danger, increased the ridiculousness, and patriotism.
Sam Glover: Increased the danger, ridiculous, and patriotism, but don’t worry about the budget or the length.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. That’s what I did on the fourth one is just pretty much doubled the budget and doubled the danger factor and just everything. It didn’t really get that many hits. I was like, “Oh man, that’s rough.” That was the scariest thing I think I’ve ever done in my entire life, riding the jet ski off that ramp, because I had no training. I don’t know what I’m doing. This was in a Texas pond and we had built a ramp on a random island in the middle of it. Let’s see what happens. Yeah. After that, only got it was 180,000 or 200,000 views on YouTube and then probably about the same in Facebook. I was like, “Man, that didn’t even breach a million and I risked the hell out of my life?”
My friends were all having a conversation about, “Hey, okay, if he does snap his neck, who’s jumping in? All right. Who’s going to call the ambulance?” They’re preparing for my possible death and I’m like, “Man, I don’t know if that’s really worth it to do.” I think it might be better to do something shorter.
Sam Glover: Let’s take two minutes to hear from our sponsors and when we come back, I’m curious to hear a little bit more about that, about how you decide whether or not they’re worth it and what effect they’ve had on your practice. We’ll be back in two minutes.
Aaron Street: You’re investing time and money to grow your law firm, but what if you could make all of your marketing and business development work better? Spotlight Branding works exclusively with solo and small law firms. They create the internet foundation for their clients, which increases the return on their marketing investment by 2x, 5x, or more. Whether you develop business primarily through networking and referrals, by running ads on the radio or on the internet, or whatever the case may be, Spotlight Branding can create an internet presence for your law firm, which will make all of your marketing work better.
Spotlight Branding services include law firm website design, e-mail newsletter management, social media marketing, and more – all designed to help your law practice generate a higher return on the time and the money that you’re investing into your marketing. Visit spotlightbranding.com/lawyerist to see how they can help your firm stand out from the crowd and make 2017 your most profitable year ever.
Sam Glover: You’re racing against the clock to wrap up three client projects, prepping for a meeting later in the afternoon, all while trying to tackle a mountain of paperwork. Welcome to modern life as a small-firm lawyer. The working world has changed. With the growth of the internet, there’s never been more opportunities for the self-employed.
To meet this need, Fresh Books is excited to announce the launch of an all new version of their cloud accounting software. It’s been redesigned from the ground up and custom built for exactly the way you work. Get ready for the simplest way to be more productive, organized, and most importantly, get paid quickly.
The all new Fresh Books is not only ridiculously easy to use, it’s also packed full of powerful features. Create and send professional-looking invoices in less than 30 seconds, set up online payments with just a couple of clicks and get paid up to four days faster, see when your client has seen your invoice and put an end to the guessing games.
Fresh Book is offering a 30-day, unrestricted free trial to our listeners. To claim it, just go to freshbooks.com/lawyerist and enter “Lawyerist” in the, “How did you hear about us,” section.
This podcast is supported by Ruby Receptionists. As a matter of fact, Ruby answers our phones at Lawyerist and my firm was a paying Ruby customer before that. Here’s what I love about Ruby. When I’m in the middle of something, I hate to be interrupted. When the phone rings it annoys me and that often carries over into the conversation I have after I pick up the phone, which is why I’m better off not answering my own phone.
Instead, Ruby answers the phone and if the person on the other end asks for me, a friendly, cheerful receptionist from Ruby calls me and asks if I want them to put the call through. It’s a buffer that gives me a minute to let go of my annoyance and be a better human being during the call.
If you want to be a better human being on the phone, give Ruby a try. Go to callruby.com/lawyerist to sign up and Ruby will waive the $95 setup fee. If you aren’t happy with Ruby for any reason, you can get your money back during your first three weeks. I’m pretty sure you’ll stick around, but since there is no risk, you might as well try.
We’re back. Bryan, you’ve got millions of views. You’ve got a few videos out there. You’re still solo with an assistant, it sounds like. Is that because that’s the kind of practice you want to have or is the goal to grow and you’re feeding it? Are these what launched your business and made the clients start coming in the door? How do you decide it’s worth making these videos beyond just you think it’s fun and you want to keep doing them? What’s the return on the investment, basically?
Bryan Wilson: The return on investment is every time I’ve released – up until the most recent one, the Christmas commercials, which I haven’t seen this happen with it – but every single one of the prior four videos and the Super Bowl commercial, every time I release a video, it is the best month I’ve ever had. Rather, the next month is the best month I’ve ever had. If I release it, let’s say, mid-September, that October is going to be the best month I’ve ever had in my entire practice. That didn’t happen with this most recent one, the Christmas commercial. I’m looking back on it trying to figure out why. I think I kind of have, but you just never know. I think that they definitely bring in a lot of clients.
Your question about whether I want to stay solo with an assistant or whether I want to expand – I know I’m going to expand at some point, but I’m honestly a little nervous to. Because I think once I start expanding, I’m going to have to have a rule book, and an employee manual, and really have to do a lot fewer fun things, and have to grow up a little bit more than just representing the hell out of my clients that I have and having no real responsibilities beyond that.
Sam Glover: Are you super busy then? Are you turning down clients? I’m just curious. You’ve had more success with lawyer videos online than I think anyone. I’m curious, what is the kickback effect on that? It sounds like your own practice is doing fine, but it doesn’t sound like you’re just awash in clients.
Bryan Wilson: I definitely have turned down God knows how many clients after my video release month and usually the month after that.
Sam Glover: Oh, okay.
Bryan Wilson: There are a bunch of clients that are turned down. It was at a point where I had to double my fees because I was getting so many. The thing is this is the first business I’ve ever owned. I’m learning how to not only practice law and fight diligently for my clients, but I’m also learning how to expand a business, which I think I’m better at law than I am at business.
Sam Glover: Having done it, it’s not easy.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. I’m definitely learning with each video. Actually, at the beginning of this year is where I thought, okay, well maybe I need to start preparing to expand in the future and start thinking about if I do want to make more money in the long run, it’s probably going to be in personal injury. Even though I have a passion for criminal defense, I think that’s probably where a lot more money is going to come in over the long run.
Sam Glover: Plus, there’s a lot more topics that you can create videos about.
Bryan Wilson: Actually, yeah. There’s going to be some really fun ones. I’m pretty excited about one of my ideas. Everyone’s doing the classic, “I’m going to fight for your rights and I’m going to get you what you deserve,” and all that. I think if I expand into personal injury I think it’s another … I don’t know. People can take it one of two ways. They can either take it as, “Oh, he’s just trying to cash in right now,” or they can take it as, “That’s funny and informative. I’m going to share it.” I don’t know.
Sam Glover: How long have you been practicing? You’ve been practicing for what?
Bryan Wilson: I got my bar license November of 2013 and opened up in shop in February of 2014.
Sam Glover: You’ve got all this notoriety. You’ve got a ton of attention on you. You’ve got clients coming in the door. How do you find time to actually grow as a lawyer? Because I always think one of the hardest parts about starting a practice is growing as a lawyer and most people have plenty of time to do that because they’re not making viral videos that are bringing in a bunch of clients. Has it been a challenge or do you feel like you’ve just been thrown in the deep end?
Bryan Wilson: How I started out getting the confidence to do this was I would sit second chair on anything. If anybody had a trial, and there’s always trials out there where a lawyer tries to do it themselves, and I’d just get the word out that I’m ready to help out.
After releasing the first video, I think there was a negative stigma with having me even there, which I think it’s largely vaporized. It’s not really translated into anything. For awhile, I think those people didn’t really want me to sit second. At least in Tarrant County, they do not like outsiders and I probably appeared to be an outsider. I was born and raised here. I probably definitely appeared to be an outsider.
I just tried cases second chair as much as I possibly could and do as many CLEs specifically on criminal defense areas. Most of the time, they’d be DWI-specific. I think that’s how I’ve learned.
The short answer to tell you is if you’re starting out your own practice right out of law school, it’s going to hurt your family and friends, the relationship you have with them. If you’re doing it right, you’re not going to have a whole lot of time to do anything else. It’s like I was working seven days a week for anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a day just starting everything up and figuring out what I’m doing to make sure I’m not going to make a mistake. That’s rough. That’s really rough on you the first year.
Especially when I tried something like, “Hey, let’s go ahead and release this video. Let’s see what happens.” To have a lot of negative backlash from older attorneys, that sucked pretty bad. The thing was I just took it like, “Okay.”
Sam Glover: I’d like to talk to you about that, actually. Now that you’ve been doing it for a little bit longer, most people are familiar with it. What is the ongoing negative backlash? Is there any?
Bryan Wilson: Really, it’s narrowed down a lot. After the first one, everyone hated me and thought I was a jackass. After the second one, there’s a clip in the second one where I start laughing. I think that changed a lot of people’s view of it because they thought, “Okay, he gets that he’s acting like a jackass.” Some people came around to it. Other people were still like, “This will never work. What an idiot.”
Third one went viral and the only thing they’ve got left is, “He’s ruining the practice of law.” That’s about all they’ve got left. Because it’s not going to work. That argument’s gone. “What a little punk. Who does he think he is for even doing that?” That got thrown out because it led to a Taco Bell commercial. Now it’s kind of like that’s the last thing they can do is say it’s disrespectful. They don’t even have unethical because I get my commercials approved by the Ad Review Committee.
They can still take the old-school, conservative viewpoint that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I’m a little punk, and I don’t know the real way to get clients is by doing really well for the clients you have and they’ll tell other people about you. I’m sitting here thinking that ignores the other lawyers who might be half as good as you, have funneled in a lot of money to advertising dollars to be at the top Google search whenever somebody says, “Criminal defense attorney, Fort Worth.” If you aren’t a name that’s recognizable, that’s either taught them something or been helpful in some way, or made them laugh, then you’re probably not going to get called whenever they get a DWI charge.
Sam Glover: Have you noticed any effects in the courtroom? Do judges think it’s cool to have you in the courtroom or do you think they look down on your for some of those conservative reasons?
Bryan Wilson: That’s been pretty tough and that was a little scary for me for a while. I was sitting there thinking like, “What happens if they hold that against me, and rule against my client, or do something damaging when they have discretion to just because they didn’t like my commercials?” That was a big fear of mine.
I rationalized it, whether it’s accurate or not, that any judge who’s upholding their duty as a judge is going to make a fair and impartial ruling not based on the attorney, but based on the facts and the presentation and whatever argument it is. Any judge that’s doing the right thing will have to ignore it.
Practically speaking, I don’t think I’ve noticed anywhere where I said, “Oh man, that judge was horrible to me and it must be because of my videos.” Kind of the opposite. Tarrant County, and Texas in general, it’s kind of a glad-hand or a shake-hand type of situation where, “Oh come on, my client did this. Come on.” If you go up and just talk with them and be real with them, you’re going to get better results than being formalistic, and file a shitload of motions, and get technical on the law.
I was nervous about that because they do have a lot of discretion, but I think it’s worked the opposite. I had a judge stop me the other day as I was leaving the courtroom and asked to take a selfie with me. I was like, “Okay. Well.”
Sam Glover: That’s awesome.
Bryan Wilson: I was worried about juries. A lot of times they keep quiet, and they don’t say that they have a big problem with my videos, and they don’t have to. They can sit there and remain quiet. Is there going to be somebody that could be a destructive juror that doesn’t say anything and they just really don’t like that I’m-
Sam Glover: Wait. Do you ask if they’ve seen your videos during voir dire?
Bryan Wilson: Here’s what I say.
Sam Glover: You all say, “voir dare” down there, don’t you?
Bryan Wilson: “Voir dare. Yeehaw. Let’s talk about voir dare.” Yeah. That’s how we say it. Last time I had a trial, I just said, “We’ve already been asked this, but does anybody here recognize anybody?” I’ve done that before and I’ve had a few people smile, but this most recent trial, I had some guy raise his hand and say, “You’re that guy from that thing.”
Sam Glover: Did he yell it?
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. He’s just like, “You’re that guy from that thing.” I said, “Yeah. What he’s talking about,” telling everybody else in the panel, “What he’s talking about is I make ridiculous commercials for my law firm that I think are pretty funny and I try to teach a legal lesson. Has anybody seen them?” Get a few hands raised. “Anybody seen them – and this is okay to answer in the affirmative – has anybody seen them and doesn’t like what I’m doing and doesn’t like me?” I haven’t had anybody raise their hand yet, but I think I said, “Does anybody like them or think they’re funny,” and then go into, “Does anybody think they’re not funny at all?”
I just ask them, “If you didn’t want to answer, that’s okay. Just hold it against me and tell me afterwards. If you make it into this final sixth or twelfth seat, come up to me after the trial and tell me that I’m being a punk or you have a problem with what I’m doing, but don’t hold it against my client.” I think that helps out a lot with what the jury because it’s just ours. That’s what I’m telling people is, “Just don’t hold it against him. It’s really not his fault. That what if he hired me before all the commercials?” I just think it’s better that they come up and tell me.
There’s still that fear out there, but the guy that brought up and raised his hand on that panel, I believe he was the foreman of the jury and they acquitted my client, which I was amazed they didn’t strike him. He said, “Yeah, those commercials are funny.” I’m like, “Oh man, he’s so getting struck.”
Sam Glover: That’s a helpful thing, right? You’re like, “The one time it came up, my client was acquitted.”
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. The one time it undoubtedly came up, yeah. He was acquitted. It was a DWI. They’d seen the DWI commercials, somebody getting arrested. I think people most of the time get it. I think jury panels are getting younger. If they’ve seen them, they usually are probably going to get it.
From what I’ve seen the older, the whiter, and the more conservative somebody is, the more likely they are to have a problem with my videos, especially when all three are present. Those guys just aren’t the people that are drumming around Facebook and YouTube looking for funny videos. I think that that’s not my market and if they have seen it and they’re offended, hopefully they’ll be upfront enough to tell me.
I haven’t had it yet. I haven’t had any effects that have been noticeable. I’ve been very sensitive to that to see if there’s ever going to be an effect. That might be something I would change. If I noticed it was a dramatic, obvious effect because of my commercial that one of my clients had something negative happen to them, that would make me rethink my positions. As of right now, I think it’s mostly positive. Yeah.
Sam Glover: Maybe this is hard to answer, but I know there are lots of lawyers listening who are going to be thinking, “Hey, that works. Maybe I should be making some videos, some funny, loud videos to get clients.” I’m not sure that somebody can just go ahead and replicate your approach and it’s going to work, so tell me.
Bryan Wilson: I recommend that they don’t. Here’s what people out there, if they’re interested in video marketing, which I think that’s what’s going to help, I think this is what they should do. People that have been lawyers for awhile, or especially after any amount of law school, you forget you didn’t know about the law unless you had an attorney in the family. You didn’t know anything about the law before law school. At least I didn’t. I had no idea what was illegal, what is not illegal, how it is illegal, how conduct is punished. People want to know these answers.
I think the best videos people can make right now are something if you turn off the lawyer brain for a second and think, “What do people want to know the answer to?” You answer that question in an educational video, not only does that usually bypass whatever Ad Review Committee rules there are, because I don’t think they’re allowed to really regulate on the first minute videos that are educating people, but you also are likely to get that spread around.
Sam Glover: That gets lost, but each of your videos has a legal lesson in it.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. Every single one of them.
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Bryan Wilson: This one I’m getting ready to do is the first one that’s not going to have a legal lesson just as a text, but all the first five of mine all had a legal message in there. It’s trying to teach people something. To have lawyers arguing about it and have people being like, “Oh my gosh, is that true,” and then occasionally people misapplying the rule in the comments, but I think educational videos are where it’s going, if you can answer some kind of question like that. There’s a few Texas lawyers that were strumming on their guitars and gave out a lesson about don’t eat your damn weed, because it turns a little misdemeanor into a felony.
Sam Glover: That’s right.
Bryan Wilson: That’s such a great lesson right there. If I were to make a guess after that video, they are doing the majority of drug cases in Waco. It’s because they made a legal lesson, they made it kind of entertaining. You don’t have to go bazonkers like I do yelling and jumping off of stuff and almost killing yourself to just teach people a legal lesson that will get spread around.
Sam Glover: Don’t be lame. Right? Don’t be lame.
Bryan Wilson: Even a lame video that’s educational is going to do better than a wacky video that’s just thrown out there just to be wacky. I swear I really think that’s the truth. If you make something educational, people are much more likely to spread it around than if you’re intentionally trying to be a whack job out there, because then a lot of people get turned off by a video that is just you’re trying to go viral just because.
If you’re out there yelling and your YouTube viewer can see that, they can say, “Okay, well this guy is trying to look real crazy. Where’s the substance at?” It’s not going to do as well as, “Hey, did you know that if you tried to destroy your weed, for instance by eating it like everyone tries to do with their dry mouths, that you just turned that little, tiny misdemeanor into a felony? That’s a big, big deal. Check out this video.” It gets spread around a lot more. I don’t think they spread that video around because everyone was tremendously good, had great vocals. I’m not talking shit about them, I’m just saying. They all have great voices and can strum a guitar, but it was well-written and it was educational and that’s good enough.
Sam Glover: I think though, too, it is important that the person in the video is having fun. You mentioned earlier that in one of your videos, you laughed at yourself at one point. When I’m thinking about it, that’s the point at which I was like, “Oh, he’s not taking himself too seriously. He’s having fun with this, too.” If you are actually going around thinking you were the Texas Law Hawk, then you’d be exactly as lame as, “I’m the Bulldog,” that are just taking themselves too seriously. That was where it was like-
Bryan Wilson: “I’m the Boulder. I roll down hills. I roll over the competition.” I mean, yeah, you can yell about any random nickname, but if you’re having fun, people who are on YouTube videos, they can see authenticity.
Sam Glover: People can spot a phony. Yep.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah. That’s what I tell people is if you really have a passion about teaching people something about the law, which is a good thing, and then also want more clients, find something that’s within your practice niche. Make an educational video.
Here’s the part that’s really hard is post it. A lot of people, I think, maybe are almost there. They’re just about to make the video. Or me, I waited awhile after the video to actually post it. It was really hard. It was a hard decision to make. That, “Well, what’s going to happen? I’m definitely getting some backlash on this, so I just have no idea.” It was just way more than I imagined. Yeah. I’ve had probably a lot of shit talked about me, but nothing like that, that intense that quickly. I was like, “Whoa, ow. That’s rough.”
Sam Glover: “Well, that escalated quickly.” Educate, entertain, don’t be a phony, and then post it.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah.
Sam Glover: Make it happen.
Bryan Wilson: Just put it out there. If you want to get a company, that’s fine, but you don’t really need it. I think you can even pull it off with an iPhone nowadays, but yeah, it’s not a bad idea to have a cameraman or an editor. My guys in Austin, Jake Sam, or Bailey, or Aminal Productions up here in Fort Worth, Carl [inaudible 00:48:09]. It doesn’t bother me to say their names because they’re amazing and if they want to do another video for somebody else, that’s totally fine.
Sam Glover: It just seems like maybe go hire somebody that doesn’t make commercials.
Bryan Wilson: Yeah.
Sam Glover: Go hire somebody that actually could just get you on tape, or you on video, and then help you edit it to make you look good, and make it flow. You don’t necessarily need somebody who makes commercial safety videos. That doesn’t really help.
Bryan Wilson: Exactly. Probably finding a film student, putting an ad out for a film student would be a pretty cheap way to go about getting a well-edited, good video that you could start posting, that you’d start your YouTube channel with. Smaller and more content I think is better and educational, of course, but yeah I think that’s where it’s going nowadays.
Sam Glover: Educate, entertain, don’t be a phony, don’t overdo it, and get it out there. Well, Bryan, thank you so much.
Bryan Wilson: I never said don’t overdo it. You definitely want to overdo it.
Sam Glover: Fair enough.
Bryan Wilson: Just to clarify.
Sam Glover: Why don’t you overdo it by giving us a closer here?
Bryan Wilson: All right, everyone thank you for listening to Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist Podcast. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit lawyerist.com/podcast or legaltalknetwork.com. You can subscribe via iTunes or anywhere podcasts are found. Both Lawyerist and the Legal Talk Network can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and you can download the free app from Legal Talk Network in Google Play or iTunes.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by, Legal Talk Network. Nothing said during this podcast is legal advice.
The Lawyerist Podcast is a weekly show about lawyering and law practice hosted by Sam Glover and Aaron Street.
Rebecca Sandefur talks about why people don't ask lawyers or courts for assistance with their problems, how civilians can properly obtain legal help, and...
Bob Ambrogi examines the state of podcasting and legal blogging in 2019 and how influential these methods can still be.
Jason Fried talks about what it means to be a calm company and how less can be more when it comes to productivity.
David Colarusso talks about Suffolk University Law School’s Legal Innovation and Technology Lab, what it is, and what it hopes to achieve.
Chris Voss talks about compromise and deadlines, listening and empathy as a martial art, and a few tips and tricks on negation.
Mark Britton talks about how he started Avvo, his vision for the company, and how it changed over the years.