Law Firm Marketing – Becoming Client Centric

The Client Experience

Receiving exceptional service is always a memorable experience. It can make a person feel valued. And news of exceptional service spreads fast. It’s talked about to friends and family and even eulogized to strangers. It can transcend the ordinary and take on an almost mythical form. This is especially true when ordinary things are done in extraordinary ways.

Years ago, I had to fly to Bangkok on a business trip. After a long, trying taxi ride in rush-hour traffic, I finally checked into my hotel, tired and hungry. I dropped my luggage in the room and went down-stairs to get some dinner. An hour later, when I returned, I found my luggage neatly unpacked–shirts folded, pants hung up, ties carefully dispersed along the racks. Almost immediately, I began to relax. I involuntarily breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I looked into the bathroom and saw something I’ll never forget. The items from my overnight kit had been neatly arranged by the sink,?and someone had actually cleaned my hairbrush. All of the hair strands had been removed and the bristles were glistening. But the coup de grace was this: Resting in the center of the bristles was a beautiful white petal.
After more than ten years, I can still see this image. This one experience–this unexpected gesture that went beyond exceptional service–left me with a whole new understanding of what it means to put a client first.

When I returned home and people asked about Thailand, I invariably told them about that small white petal on my hairbrush. Today, when I think of great hotels, I think of the Hotel Oriental. It is the standard by which I judge all other hotels.

In the universe of companies, only a few consistently reach extraordinary levels of service. Studies have shown that companies that do reach such levels share certain fundamental values and organizational traits.

Marketing a Service

There is a fundamental distinction between marketing a product and marketing a service. Products are tangible. They either work as represented or they don’t. Products can be returned or exchanged. We can touch and feel a product before we decide to buy it; rarely is this the case with a service.

Services are meant to be experienced, not ordered from catalogs. Serv-ices are profoundly personal in nature and our response to them is often emotionally driven. A service relation-ship, especially a professional service relationship, challenges the provider to be an expert in serving people.

Think about the ways buyers perceive “value” generally. When we buy products, we rely mostly on objective criteria. For products like shampoo and stereos, determining objective value is fairly simple. A large bottle of shampoo delivers more product than a small one, so we are justified in paying more for the large one. A stereo system that has more features is said to contain more value than one that has fewer features. Product features, quality and quantity are all critical factors in the determination of value. Service, however, is far more nebulous–and is therefore much more challenging to define and measure.

Service Is a Process, Not an End

One reason service is so difficult to measure is because it’s so subjective. It is experiential–we can feel it and see it, but defining it is another matter. Perhaps it’s a little like what the Supreme Court wrote about pornography: It may be hard to define, but we know it when we see it.

Truly great firms–those with legendary status–are always striving to reach greater levels of service for their clients. Fundamental to such firms is the understanding that service is a never-ending process driven by a specific mind-set. These firms know that while they must always try to reach higher levels of service, they can never assume they have achieved the highest level. There is always a higher level to strive for, and standing still squelches the pursuit of excellence. Either a firm continues to reach for higher service levels or it has abandoned the pursuit. There is no middle ground.

Most firms revolve around the desires and needs of their partners. For service-driven firms, just the opposite is true–not because these firms have partners who enjoy a higher sense of purpose, but because they have a higher sense of business smarts. For them, everything revolves around the client. And as you might expect, the benefits have a way of coming back to the partners. Consistently delivering increasingly higher levels of service to clients builds the types of returns that keep a firm thriving.

There is no quick and easy recipe for becoming a service-driven firm. There is no secret formula for meeting–and exceeding–your clients’ needs. But one of the best ways to find out how your firm can provide exceptional service for your clients is, strangely enough, one of the most frequently ignored: listening to what your clients need–being client-centric instead of firm-centric.

You may be convinced that your best clients have been attracted by the stature of your firm–by its size or its range of specialties. But the truth is that it’s not what you think you’re offering that counts, but rather what the clients are experiencing that matters most.

The Emotional Side

Providing a renowned level of service to clients requires paying attention and being sensitive to the emotional side of legal trouble.

Lawyers who pay attention to clients’ subjective experiences are able to expand the scope of legal and practical options available to their clients, which can result in the lawyers becoming better problem solvers.
Old marketing models were based on a number of false assumptions about what influences people’s decisions. Now that we know more about how the mind works, we have a unique opportunity to apply this knowledge to the goal of meeting our clients’ real needs as opposed to the needs we merely assume they have.
In our legal training, we are taught the paramount importance of words and logic. Even in the emotional setting of trial, most skilled attorneys–while highly attuned to the emotional reactions of juries–ultimately almost always rely on the persuasive power of logic, words and reason to win their cases.

Today, neuroscience is providing important insights into the ways people interpret information and the degree to which “thinking” is used to influence our decisions. Lawyers’ emphasis on words is based largely on the false assumption that most of our thinking takes place in our conscious minds. In fact, recent brain science research reveals that just the opposite is true: As much as 95 percent of our thinking actually takes place at the subconscious level.

Our memories, associations and emotions occur just below the surface of our awareness. In response to stimuli, our minds go busily to work at a staggering speed, networking, sharing, distributing, connecting, shuffling and reshuffling memories, images and thoughts before the first words of reaction ever leave our lips. Ironically, the words we speak are literally an afterthought.

How can this knowledge be applied to the way we communicate and deal with our clients? We would like to assume that clients, for the most part, make decisions deliberately and rationally. That is, that they consciously contemplate the relative merits of a choice, assign a value to each criterion and then convert this information into what we call a judgment. We’d certainly like to assume that’s how we make decisions ourselves! But the fact is, most decisions are made at the intuitive, emotional level.

Whether responding to an argument in the courtroom or to a firm’s marketing campaign, even the most intelligent people process their decisions below the surface of their conscious mind. In reality, words and logic have more to do with justifying a decision than forming the basis of one.

Consider how clients choose law firms. They may think they were led by logic–going with “a big firm” or choosing on the basis of a lawyer’s “professional demeanor,” but they are actually using their intuition to make a highly subjective -decision.

When attorneys learn to think emotionally, they will find new ways to communicate with their clients at the decision-making level. Therefore, providing a renowned level of service to clients means expanding the quality of personal attention given to the emotional side of problem solving. Lawyers who pay attention to clients’ subjective experiences are able to offer a wide scope of practical and legal options for their clients to consider.

“We see the same problems over and over again,” a partner in a small Cleveland practice explained. “When we know our clients are going through a painful time in their life, our job is often to help them connect the dots at a personal level. This requires us to think emotionally–to become more empathetic–so that we can get inside the minds of our clients. But the truth is, even in the context of law, a client’s decision process is driven more strongly by emotion than by any other single factor.”
Emotion is a stronger influence on the decision-making process, but words are not even a close second, although it’s a common assumption that we think in words.

While words play a central role in communicating thoughts, we rarely use them to think. Using words is just too slow, and language does not contain enough bandwidth to accommodate the complexity of our think-ing processes. Feelings can be both instantaneous and complex in ways that words cannot be.

The law firm that recognizes the important role emotions play in its clients’ decision-making process and adjusts its service accordingly will find new opportunities to provide clients with increasingly higher levels of service.

Knowledge Sharing

Professional service marketing is both knowledge intensive and relation-ship intensive. For law firms in particular, knowledge-sharing and relationship-building are two essential elements of providing quality legal counsel, and they need to work together. Developing client relationships comes from sharing knowledge in ways that build confidence and trust.
Unfortunately, many lawyers are reluctant to share their knowledge with clients. Some would rather create a shroud of mystery around their work, forcing clients to view them as indispensable–an especially effective technique for a lawyer who has already been successful in solving a prior legal problem for a client. However, this approach almost always results in clients feeling insecure and vulnerable, and it does not lead to the type of trust or loyalty that, in the long run, makes clients return.

Marketing is an empathetic process. It requires that lawyers step back and become observers in the lawyer-client relationship. In doing so, we must detach ourselves from our own views and old ways of thinking. For most of us, this requires a shift in perspective.

Neuroscientists tell us that our minds thrive on exploring new ways of thinking–seeing relationships between things we previously thought were unrelated and finding commonality between different disciplines such as language and the arts or science and philosophy.

The same can be said of the kind of shift in thinking required to connect emotions with marketing and marketing with identity. These new combinations are powerful and effective, but part of the challenge in us-ing them is to first get our minds around them.
The entire range of our thinking, the depth of our very perception, is said to shift when we challenge ourselves to understand the totality of something rather than just our narrow part of it.

Thinking is our forte as lawyers. But true mental strength depends on our willingness to understand different types of thinking on being able to shift and widen our perspectives and consider new approaches to problem solving.
Challenging our minds means breaking through the linear and narrow confines of our own categorical logic. We need to look beyond the world of opposites–things that are either true or false but never both. In short, we need to stop and take a fresh look at what we do and why we do it. If we hope to provide the kind of high-level service that will set us apart from our competition and create a new magnitude of client satisfaction, we need to see clients’ needs in ways we haven’t seen before.

This, of course, requires that we develop new ways of thinking. It means leaving our mental comfort zone–not a pleasant proposition for lawyers who have spent years learning how to think in that zone. Yet leaving it is essential if we are committed to the full range of the market-ing process.

Service Based on Character

Action that comes from one’s character is perceived as authentic and therefore predictable. Ideally, clients will come to know their lawyers as people who can be counted on under almost any circumstances. Lawyers who can be counted on to be responsible, attentive, caring, sensible, hon-est, hardworking and trustworthy will attract new clients and keep existing ones.
Developing a law firm based on these types of inspired values is what drives firm growth and fosters prosperity. However, character cannot be imposed from the outside. It must originate from the core of the firm’s leadership and grow outward. That’s why relationship building is so important to our work.

Many law firms balk at investing in education and personal development. Mentoring is too often limited to developing technical skills such as research and drafting. Developing lawyers’ communication and character-building skills has been devalued, and this reflects the degree of resignation and cynicism existing in our profession today. Ironically, the same firms that don’t value personal development wonder why they’re experiencing a staggering drop in client satisfaction.

The Trust Factor

Do clients see you as someone they trust? As someone who is honest with them and acts with integrity? Are you seen as someone who truly cares about their welfare?

What we do for our clients reveals not only our immediate intentions, but also our character.
Clients measure our service first and foremost–but not completely–by our actions. If our actions are perceived to arise naturally from our character, then we are perceived as sincere and trustworthy. If not, which all too often is the case, we can appear calculating and manipulative.

Clients trust their lawyers if they believe in the truth of the lawyers’ character. For lawyers to learn to serve from their character takes time, effort and a commitment to individual development. Despite popular opinion, character can be developed and learned, especially if it is en-forced by the firm’s culture and leadership. Thus, the term character building.
For most firms, however, developing communication skills in their lawyers is simply not a priority. In fact, some firms believe that it’s not necessary if they simply hire quality people.

“When we recruit, we look for young people who have a strong sense of purpose,” said a partner at an East Coast firm. “To our firm, this means maturity, manners and common sense. Sure, we want the brightest minds, but we refuse to compromise on character. We won’t give an of-fer unless we believe in our gut that person can truly grow into being a partner.”

Lawyers who are truly valued by their clients develop client relation-ships that grow into alliances. At the other end of the spectrum are lawyers who view their job as opening and closing files. They exist in a virtual dead zone–a place where the personal side of the client’s experience is not relevant, the client having been reduced to just another “fact” in a set of issues belonging to a file making up a unit of revenue.

Somewhere along the line, these lawyers have come to believe that as long as there is sufficient revenue flow, fixing and changing the exterior problems (applying the hammer) will be sufficient to keep declining service in check. In the meantime, the partners keep partnering and hope that no one notices that they don’t have a clue about where the firm is going or how it will end up.

Without a moral center, there can be no group intention or direction. Instead, there is just the “organization” operating on cruise control, applying superficial fixes to problematic contact points where service and performance have fallen to unacceptable levels.

Accountability

Consider what it means to be accountable to your clients. When clients put their trust in you, what does that mean specifically–to you and to your firm?

Accountability can be viewed as the process by which a firm either succeeds or fails to make and keep its promises. What types of promises? The types that come from the firm’s inspired values–those that originate from the moral center of the firm–the “V” spot.

One partner had a very clear sense of what his firm promises: “Our clients count on us to be dependable, honest and totally committed to their interests all the time, every time.”

Take the time to identify just three character traits that clients can count on your firm to deliver. As an experiment, list these traits on paper and ask a few other people at your firm to come up with their own list. You’ll be surprised at how the responses will vary from person to person.
Consider this: If a firm can’t agree on what its clients should expect, chances are, neither can its clients. This is exactly why a firm must define for itself what it means to be in the service of its clients. Only with a clear understanding of its inspired values can a firm hope to provide clients with a consistent experience of exceptional service that they will long remember.

Finding a Law Firm: Helpful Facts You Should Know

People who need legal advice or assistance know the importance of a reputable law firm. Knowing how to find the best law office in your area is very important.

What Is a Law Firm?

A law firm is apparently a business entity that aims to provide legal services to its clients. This type of business is composed of one or more lawyers that are hired by the firm. Generally, the lawyers in a firm provide legal representation to clients and offer legal advice to other businesses. Typically, a law office renders advice about the legal rights and responsibilities of a corporation or company.

How to Find a Reliable Law Firm?

For people who have been victims of fraud or other crimes, a law office can come to the rescue to solve such matter. These days, countless law offices are available and ready to serve at all time. However, finding a reputable one is truly a daunting task. Searching for a reliable law firm requires time and effort, however with the right knowledge you will not have a hard time in looking for the best option. Here are the important factors to consider in finding a reliable law office.

Proficiency in the Field of Law – The first thing to consider is to search for a law office based on your legal issues. The truth is, law has different categories. You may look for a lawyer to advice you on dealing with criminal law or commercial litigation and other legal matters. It is indeed very essential to know how to pick a particular law firm with specialties on the field that is related to your concern. The best and effortless way to find a law office is to browse online. It can save you time and money as well.

Real World Legal Advice – Mostly, lawyers deal professionally with their clients. They provide legal advices as part of their work and responsibilities. However, as much as possible, you would like to have a law office that can give you a lawyer who shows utmost concern on your case. This kind of lawyer typically explains the legal processes in most convenient way so that the client can easily understand the legal jargons and processes.

Respectable Track Record – Doing business with a law office requires you to spend enough money for it. Since you are spending money, you must opt for the best law office that has a respectable track record. You can do a background check by knowing how many successful cases they have already won for the past years. Although this process requires much effort on your behalf, however it helps you to come up with good decisions. This can also offer you great benefits in the long run.

Facing legal issues in today’s world is not a hindrance for everyone to achieve the right justice. A solution is always present with the help of a highly reliable and professional lawyers to defend you at all aspect of the law. The only thing to do is to find the right law firm that can answer your needs.

Mobsters, Criminals and Crooks – Howe and Hummel – The Most Crooked Law Firm of All Time

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the fictitious law firm of Dewey, Screwem, and Howe. But in real life there existed a law firm which was, without a doubt, the most crooked and corrupt law firm of all time. The name of the law firm was Howe and Hummel (William Howe and Abraham Hummel). These two shyster lawyers were the main players in a sleazy law firm, founded in 1870, of which New York City District Attorney William Travers Jerome said in 1890, “For more than 20 years, Howe and Hummel have been a menace to this community.”

The founding member of the law firm was William Howe. Howe was an extremely large man, over 6 feet tall and weighing as much as 325 pounds. Howe had wavy gray hair, a large walrus mustache, and he dressed loudly, with baggy pantaloons, and diamonds, which he wore on his fingers, on his watch chains, as shirt studs, and as cuff buttons. The only time Howe wore a tie was at funerals. At trials, or anytime he was seen in public, instead of a tie, Howe wore diamond clusters, of which he owned many.

A New York lawyer, who was acquainted with Howe, said Howe derived tremendous enjoyment from cheating jewelers out of their payments for his many diamond purchases. “I don’t think he ever paid full price for those diamonds of his,” the lawyer said. “He never bought two at the same jewelers. When he got one, he would make a small down payment, and then when he had been dunned two or three times for the balance, he would assign one of his young assistant shysters to fight the claim. Of course, he had enough money to pay, but he got a kick out of not paying.”

Howe’s background before he arrived in New York City is quite dubious. What is known, is that Howe was born across the pond in England. Howe arrived in New York City in the early 1850’s as a ticket-of -leave man, or in common terms, a paroled convict. No one ever knew, nor did Howe ever divulge, what his crime had been in England. However, it was often said that Howe had been a doctor in London and had lost his license, and was incarcerated, as a result of some criminal act. Yet, Howe insisted that while he was in England he was not a doctor, but in fact, an assistant to the noted barrister George Waugh. Yet, Howe’s explanation of who we was, and what he did in England, could not be confirmed.

In 1874, Howe and Hummel were being sued by William and Adelaide Beaumont, who were former clients of the two lawyers, and were claiming they had been cheated by them. Howe was on the witness stand being interrogated by the Beaumont’s attorney Thomas Dunphy, who asked Howe if he was the same William Frederick Howe who was wanted for murder in England. Howe insisted that he was not. Dunphy then asked Howe if he was the same William Frederick Howe had been convicted of forgery in Brooklyn a few years earlier. Howe again denied he was that person. Yet, no definite determination could ever be made whether Howe was indeed telling the truth.

Rumor had it, before Howe set down stakes in New York City, he had worked in other American cities as a “confidence man.” Other crooks said that Howe was the inventor of the “sick engineer” game, which was one of the most successful sucker traps of that time. In 1859, when he arrived in New York City, Howe immediately transitioned from criminal into criminal attorney, which in those days most people considered to be the same thing.

In the mid-1800s, it was easy to get a license to practice law, and background checks on the integrity of law license applicants were nonexistent. Famed lawyer George W. Alger once wrote, “In those days there were practically no ethics at all in criminal law and none too much in the other branches of the profession. The grievance committee of the Bar Association was not functioning and a lawyer could do pretty much anything he wanted. And most of them did.”

In 1862, “Howe the Lawyer,” as he came to be known, suddenly appeared as a practicing attorney in New York City. However, there is no concrete evidence on how Howe actually became admitted to the New York Bar. In 1963, Howe was listed in the City Directory as an attorney in private practice. In those days, almost anyone could call themselves a lawyer. The courts were filled with lawyers who had absolutely no legal training. They were called “Poughkeepsie Lawyers.”

Howe began building up his clientele in the period immediately after the Civil War. Howe had the reputation of being a “pettifogger,” which is defined as a lawyer with no scruples, and who would use any method, legal or illegal, to serve his clients. Howe became known as “Habeas Corpus Howe,” because of his success in getting soldiers, who didn’t want to be in the service, out of the service. Howe would bring his dispirited soldiers into court, where they would testify that they were either drunk when they enlisted, which made their enlistment illegal, or that they had a circumstance in their lives at the time they were drafted, that may have made their draft contrary to the law. In a magazine article published in 1873, it said, “During the war, Mr. Howe at one time secured the release of an entire company of soldiers, some 70 strong.”

Howe also had as his clients scores of members of the street gangs who instigated the monstrous “1863 Civil War Riots.” Reports were that Howe, using illegal and immoral defense efforts, was able to have men, who committed murders during those riots, acquitted of all charges. As a result of his dubious successes, by the late 1860s Howe was considered the most successful lawyer in New York City. One highly complementary magazine article written about Howe was entitled “William F. Howe: The Celebrated Criminal Lawyer.”

In 1863, Howe hired a 13-year-old office boy named Abraham Hummel. At the time, Howe had just opened his new office, a gigantic storefront at 89 Centre Street, directly opposite The Tombs Prison. Hummel was the exact opposite in appearance of Howe. “Little Abey” was under 5-foot-tall, with thin spindly legs, and a huge, egg-shaped bald head. Hummel walked slightly bent over, and some people mistook him for a hunchback. Hummel wore a black mustache, and had shifty eyes, that always seem to be darting about and taking in the entire scene. While Howe was loud and bombastic, Hummel was quiet and reserved.

However, Hummel was sly and much more quick-witted than Howe. Where Howe dressed outlandishly, Hummel’s attire consisted of plain expensive black suits, and pointed patent leather shoes: “toothpick shoes,” as they were called at the time. Hummel’s shoes were installed with inserts, a precursor to Adler-elevated shoes, which gave Hummel a few extra inches in height, putting him just over the 5-foot mark. Hummel considered himself neat and fastidious, and extremely proud of the fact.

Hummel started off as little more then an office go-fer for Howe. Hummel washed the windows and swept the floors at 89 Centre Street. Hummel also was in charge of replenishing Howe’s ever- dwindling stock of liquor and cigars. Hummel’s job also included carrying coal from the safe, where it was stored, to the stove, which stood right in the middle of the waiting room. Soon, Howe recognized the brilliance of Hummel’s mind, and directed him to start reading case reports. Howe called Hummel “Little Abey,” and Howe repeatedly told his associates how smart his “Little Abey” was.

Yet, instead of Howe being jealous of Hummel’s superior intellect, Howe felt that Hummel’s abilities were the perfect compliment to Howe’s brilliant courtroom histrionics. And as a result, in 1870, Howe brought Hummel in as a full partner. At the time, Hummel was barely 20 years old, and Howe 21 years older.

With his reputation of being a sly fox before the jury, Howe handled all the criminal cases, while Hummel was the man behind the scenes, ingeniously figuring out loopholes in the law, which was described by Richard Rovere in his book Howe and Hummel, as “loopholes large enough for convicted murderers to walk through standing up.”

Howe was known for his dramatics in the courtroom, and was said to be able to conjure up a crying spell whenever he felt it was necessary. Other criminal attorneys said these crying spells were instigated by Howe sniffling into a handkerchief filled with onions, which he conveniently had stuffed into his coat pockets. Howe’s courtroom melodrama was so pronounced, he once gave a complete two-hour summation to the jury on his knees.

Howe and Hummel’s names were constantly in the newspapers, which with their ingenuity in getting off the worst of criminals, they were almost always front-page news. Whereas, in the newspapers, Howe was called “Howe the Lawyer,” Hummel was always referred to as “Little Abe.” There were rumors that the two shyster lawyers had several newspaper men in their back pockets, and there was more than a little evidence to prove that was true.

Howe and Hummel’s clients were as diverse as President Harrison, Queen Victoria, heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan, John Allen (called by the newspapers, “The Most Wicked Man in New York City”), P. T. Barnum, actor Edwin Booth, restaurateur Tony Pastor, actor John Barrymore, belly dancer Little Egypt, and singer and actress, Lillian Russell. They also represented such murderers as Danny Driscoll, the ringleader of the street gang “The Whyos,” and Ella Nelson. Howe’s histrionics before the jury in Ms Nelson’s trial was so effective, he got the jury to believe that Ms. Nelson, who was on trial for shooting her married lover to death, had her finger slip on the trigger, not once, but four consecutive times.

However, probably the most outrageous defense Howe had ever perpetrated in the courtroom, was in the trial of Edward Unger. Unger had confessed he had killed a lodger in his home, cut up the body, thrown parts of the body into the East River, and mailed the rest of the body in a box to Baltimore. Howe had the courtroom, including the judge, jurors, District Attorney, and the assembled press, aghast, when he announced that Unger was not the murderer at all. But rather the true murderer was Unger’s seven-year-old daughter, who was at the time, was sitting on Unger’s lap in the courtroom. Howe, crocodile tears flowing down his chubby cheeks (onioned handkerchief?), said that Unger felt he had no choice but to dispose of the body, to protect his poor little girl, who had committed the crime in the heat of passion. As a result, Unger was found innocent of murder, but convicted on a manslaughter charge instead. Unger’s little girl was never charged.

At the peak of their business, Howe and Hummel represented and received large retainers from most of the criminals in New York City. These criminals included murders, thieves, brothel owners, and abortionists. In 1884, 74 madams were arrested in what was called a “purity drive.” All 74 madams were represented by Howe and Hummel.

Lawyer and legal crime writer Arthur Train claimed that Howe and Hummel were, during their time, the masterminds of organized crime in New York City. Train claimed Howe and Hummel trained their clients in the commission of crimes, and if their clients got caught doing these crimes, Howe and Hummel promised to represent them, at their standard high fees, of course.

In the case of Marm Mandelbaum, the most proficient fence of her time, Howe and Hummel were able to post bond for her, while she was awaiting trail, using several properties Marm owned as collateral. Marm immediately jumped bail and settled in Canada. When the government tried to seize Marm’s properties, they were aghast to discover that the properties had already be transferred to her daughter, by way of back-dated checks, a scheme certainly devised by Abe Hummel, but a crime which could never be proven.

During the mad 1870’s-80’s, in which the city was in the death grip of numerous street gangs, including the vicious Whyos, Howe and Hummel represented 23 out of the 25 prisoners awaiting trial for murder in the The Tombs. One of these murderers was Whyos leader “Dandy” Johnny Dolan, who was imprisoned for killing a shopkeeper and robbing his store. Dolan had invented an item he called, “an eye gouger.” After he had killed the shopkeeper, a Mr. Noe, Dolan gouged out both of Noe’s eyes, and kept them as trophies to show his pals. When Dolan was arrested a few days later, Noe’s eyes were found in the pockets of Dolan’s jacket. Even the great William Howe could not prevent Driscoll from being hung in the Tombs Prison, on April 21, 1876.

However, before Dolan was executed, he escaped from the Tombs prison, by beating up a guard. After his escape, Dolan dashed across the street to the law offices of Howe and Hummel. The police, following a trail of Dolan’s blood, found Dolan hiding in a closet, in a back office of Howe and Hummel. Of course, both Howe and Hummel denied any knowledge of how Dolan wound up in their closet, but the police were sure Howe and Hummel were in someway involved in Dolan’s escape. However, since there was no concrete evidence, and also because Dolan dummied up under police questioning, Howe and Hummel were never charged.

While Howe was an expert in criminal cases, Hummel was the mastermind in “breach of promise” cases, some of which Hummel invented himself. Hummel’s methods as a divorce lawyer, and as a petty blackmailer were an opened secret in New York City. Whenever Lillian Russell needed a divorce, and that was often (since she was married four times) it was “Little Abey” who came to her rescue.

No doubt, Hummel’s blackmailing/breach-of-promise schemes were a thing of beauty, as long as you weren’t the rich sap whom Hummel was scamming. It was estimated between 1885 and 1905, Hummel handled two to five hundred breach-of-promise suits. Amazingly, Hummel was so good at his job, just the threat of him bringing a breach-of-promise case to court, was enough for the rich gentleman, or more correctly, the rich gentleman’s lawyer, to bargain with Hummel over the price of the settlement, behind closed doors, of course, at 89 Centre Street. Because of Hummel’s discretion, not one of the victim’s names was ever made public, or entered into any court record.

However, Abe Hummel wasn’t a man to sit idly by and wait for “breach-of-promises” cases to come to him. When things got a little slow, Hummel sent two of his employees, Lewis Allen and Abraham Kaffenberg (Hummel’s nephew), to walk along Broadway and the Bowery looking for potential female customers, who had been wronged in the past, and didn’t realize they could make a bundle as a result of a past dalliance. Allen and Kaffenberg would explain to young actresses, chorus girls, waitresses, and even prostitutes, that if they could remember a rich man whom they had relations with in the past one-three years, that their boss Abe Hummel would be able to extract a sizable settlement from Mr. Moneybags. From this settlement, the girls would get half, and the law firm of Howe and Hummel would get the other half.

Sometimes these young “ladies” would tell the truth about their liaisons with rich men. However, sometimes the affidavits drawn up by Hummel were pure fiction. Yet the rich mark, who was probably married in the first place, would pay, and pay handsomely, just to have the case disappear, whether he was guilty or not.

Most of the time, Hummel never even met the rich mark, whose life Hummel was making miserable. Lawyer George Gordon Battle, sparred with “Little Abey” many times in these matters. Battle said, “He (Hummel) was always pleasant enough to deal with. He’d tell you right off the bat how much he wanted. Then you’d tell him how much your client was fixed. Then the two of us would argue it out from there. He wasn’t backward about pressing his advantage, but he wasn’t ungentlemanly either”

To show he was of good old sport about these sort of things, when the bargaining was done, and the payment made, always in cash, Hummel would provide his legal adversary with fine liquor, and the best Cuban cigars. Then Hummel, in plain view of the other attorney, would make a big show of going to his desk, where he removed all copies of the affidavits, and handed them to the victim’s lawyer, so that the lawyer could verify them as the proper documents. After the verification was done, the victim’s lawyer had a choice of bringing the documents to his client, or have them burned in the stove right in the middle of Hummel’s office. Almost always the latter course of action was chosen. After the affidavits were destroyed, Hummel and the other attorney would kick back their feet, toast themselves with the finest liquor, and spend the next hour, or so, laughing about lawyerly schemes.

Yet Hummel, in certain ways, was a man of principle. Hummel made sure that none of his blackmail victims were ever troubled again by the same girl who had scammed them in the past. Hummel once explained how he did this to George Alger, a partner in the law firm of Alger, Peck, Andrew, & Rohlfs.

“Before I hand over the girls share,” Hummel told Alger, “the girl and I have a little talk. She listens to me dictate an affidavit saying that she has deceived me, as a lawyer, into believing that a criminal conversation (what they called an act of adultery in those days) had taken place, that in fact nothing at all between her and the man involved ever took place, that she was thoroughly repentant over her conduct in the case, and that but for the fact that the money had already been spent, she would wish to return it. Then I’d make her sign this affidavit; then I gave her the money. Whenever they’d start up something a second time, I just called them and read them the affidavit. That always did the trick.”

So much money was coming into the law firm of Howe and Hummel, it is extraordinary that neither of the two lawyers kept any financial records at all. At the end of the day, both lawyers, and their junior associates, would meet in Hummel’s office. There they would all empty their pockets of cash onto the table. When the money was finished being counted, each man would take out his share of the money in accordance with the proportion of his share in the business. As time went on, this procedure was changed to take place on Friday nights only.

In 1900, Howe and Hummel were forced from their offices at 89 Center Street (the city needed the site for a public building). They relocated to the basement of New York Life Insurance Building at 346 Broadway. Soon after they moved, Howe became sick; then incapacitated. Howe stopped coming into the office, and instead stood feebly at his home at Boston Road in the Bronx. Howe was said to be a heavy drinker, and this had affected his liver. Howe suffered several heart attacks, before he died in his sleep, on September 2, 1902.

After Howe’s death, Hummel muddled on, as he had before, handling all the civil cases, and an occasional criminal case. However, the bulk of the trial work Hummel designated to two of his former assistants: David May and Issac Jacobson.

Hummel was 53 years old at the time of Howe’s death. He must have figured he had a good 10 to 15 more years to accumulate more wealth. However, New York City District Attorney William Travers Jerome had other ideas. It was the Dodge-Morse divorce case that was Hummel’s undoing. For years, Hummel had skirted around the law, and sometimes, in fact, broke the law, but there was never enough evidence to indict him. However, this time Hummel went too far. The Dodge-Morse divorce case dragged out for almost 5 years (Hummel was able to finagle delay after delay, using his thorough understanding of the procedures of the law), but in the end, District Attorney Jerome was able to get an indictment against Hummel for conspiracy and suborning perjury.

Hummel went on trial in January of 1905. The trial lasted only two days, and Hummel was found guilty. Still, Hummel was able to avoid jail for another two years. He hired the best lawyers available, hoping they could find some loophole in the law, or some technicality, that would keep Hummel from going to prison. But nothing could be done, and on March 8, 1907, Abraham Hummel was imprisoned at Blackwell’s Island, the same island, where in 1872, Hummel was able to have 240 prisoners released on a technicality.

Hummel left prison after serving only one year of his two-year sentence. Upon his release, Hummel traveled to Europe, and spent the rest of his life there, mostly living in France. Hummel, as far as it can be determined, never returned to his former stomping grounds in New York City.

After Hummel’s conviction, he was also disbarred. Furthermore, in 1908, the law firm of Howe and Hummel was enjoined by law from further practice, thus ending an era of lawless lawyering that has never been duplicated. Howe and Hummel are accurately portrayed in the annals of American crime, as the most law-breaking law firm of all time.