John G. Browning
Lawyers, particularly those who regularly ply their trade in the courtroom, are rarely accused of shying away from attention. But there's a difference between not being shy and being downright exhibitionist.
Yet some lawyers have adopted the latter route not only to showcase their, um, assets, but to advance their careers in the process.
Look at Chicago divorce lawyer Corri Fetman, for example. After all, a lot of people already have. The comely partner in the matrimonial law firm of Fetman, Garland & Associates first gained a measure of notoriety in May 2007 thanks to some racy billboard ads.
The billboards featured photos centered on the chests of two scantily-clad models (one male, one female), along with the tag line "Life's Short. Get a Divorce."
Conveniently included, of course, were Corri Fetman's name and the law firm's contact information. The attention-grabbing ads resulted in interviews on CNN, Inside Edition, MSNBC and Fox News. Fetman's law firm received so many e-mails that it had to shut down its server.
The billboards also outraged some onlookers, who claimed the ads were anti-marriage. Fetman disagrees, simply saying "We believe you shouldn't stay in an unhappy marriage." Fetman (a graduate of DePaul University and DePaul College of Law) further justifies the ads, saying "Business was slow, and I didn't want the typical advertisement with us sitting there in suits."
That attention, however, was nothing compared to what Fetman received after she revealed that the buxom, lingerie-clad model on the billboard was, in fact, her. After looking at some stock photos, Fetman didn't think they were "hot enough."
Rather than hire professional models, Fetman asked her personal trainer to lend his chiseled abs as the male half of the ad, while she posed for the female half. Fetman's modeling remained anonymous until she revealed that fact (and pretty much everything else) in a provocative pictorial in the February 2008 issue of Playboy entitled "Scorcher in the Court."
In an accompanying interview, the no longer buttoned-up lawyer admitted that she uses her looks to her advantage in the courtroom. "People see the big breasts and the blonde hair, and they underestimate me. One of my clients calls me the Barracuda Barbie."
Ever the shrewd self-promoter, Fetman has parlayed her looks not only into more business, but also into a new online legal advice column for Playboy, "Lawyer of Love."
So is Corri Fetman's advice any good? I don't know; I haven't found anyone yet who actually reads the articles.
Kristine Lefebvre is another lawyer who's found fame by getting down to the bare facts. A successful attorney in Los Angeles, the 5-foot-10-inch blonde gained national prominence as one of the contestants in the 2007 Donald Trump reality show "The Apprentice – L.A."
While the show has had a number of lawyers vying to work for Trump over several seasons, Lefebvre caught the real estate mogul's eye when, in an episode that called for a swimsuit fashion show, she took to the catwalk herself when a model failed to show up. After that, she said, "Mr. Trump couldn't stop carrying on about my body."
But the 38-year-old lawyer is not just a pretty face. She outlasted most of her "Apprentice" competitors, and was "fired" in the third-to-last episode.
That same competitive zeal has served Lefebvre well her entire life. She was a competitive swimmer, champion soccer player, and power lifter growing up in Hawaii and Colorado. She was also comfortable using her looks, modeling in Miami and Milan and appearing twice as a Hooters calendar girl, before going on to earn her J.D. at Florida's Nova Southeastern Law School.
Lefebvre's combination of beauty and brains has given her an edge, she feels, in her law practice. She's handled $90 million mergers, and represented a roster of clients that includes Dan Marino and Shaquille O'Neal. She also developed a niche practice of negotiating contracts for women appearing in Playboy, such as Pamela Anderson.
"The girls trust me," she says. "I don't think men have the same concerns…I get that if a girl is in high heels for six hours a day, she'll need a massage."
Lefebvre put that experience to good use in negotiating for her own nude pictorial in the June 2007 issue of Playboy. She's philosophical about the experience.
"Being an intelligent woman and being feminine and sexual should not be mutually exclusive. You can be a professional and still be a complete and sensuous woman. My brains don't fall out…when I'm naked," she says.
Lefebvre even feels the Playboy experience gives her an edge in her profession. She states "With men who already have an issue with how I look, it will help. Now that their fantasies about me are true, they won't be able to look me in the eye, which means I'll beat them hands down."
Lefebvre continues to juggle law with modeling, charity work, and her marriage to celebrity chef Ludovic Lefebvre.
Of course, some women don't wait until they're full-fledged members of the legal profession before seizing their moment in the spotlight. In 2007, Boston College law student Adrienne Reynolds ruffled some Eagle feathers when she posed for Barstool Sports magazine wearing nothing but skimpy briefs and a strategically placed Boston College pennant. At least she's got school spirit.
The spread ignited a campus controversy, with some students stating that it didn't reflect the standards of professionalism and morals at the Massachusetts school. Some local law firms also questioned her judgment, with one observer noting "It's not exactly the image you want to project as a serious individual who would take on a client's problems."
The law school administration refused to add fuel to the fire. Nate Kenyon, Boston College Law School's director of marketing and communications, stated "What students do on their own time is their own business."
However, Reynolds found an unlikely defender in Republican state senator and Boston College law grad Scott Brown. Brown helped pay for his own law school education 25 years previously by posing nude for Cosmopolitan magazine's June 1982 issue.
"She should be proud of how she looks and stick to her guns," said Sen. Brown.
Personally, I'd prefer that the lawyers I know keep their clothes on. Is that because of my sense of professionalism or moral fiber? Maybe.
But maybe it's also because most of the lawyers I come into contact with look nothing like Corri Fetman, Kristine Lefebvre or Adrienne Reynolds.
John Browning is a partner in the Dallas office of Gordon & Rees, LLP. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org