Marketing the Hired-Gun Prosecutor


I wrote back in May about Kelly Siegler’s future as a Hired-Gun Prosecutor (motto: “I get paid to make people afraid!”). “How to get the business?” I asked, “Word of mouth and the internet, of course.”

Then in June she posted to the Women in Crime Ink blog with the tagline “Prosecutor for Hire.” The businesspeople among us recognized this as a first step toward creating a brand.

Now it’s July, and Kelly has another post up at Women in Crime Ink. This one, “Win at All Costs? Not Really” is a none-too subtle slam of Texas prosecutors:

The real problem is that far too many prosecutors are worried about taking on a difficult case, a case that is not a slam-dunk or a whale (“as easy as harpooning a whale in a barrel,” as we say in Harris County, Texas). Too many prosecutors demand that the cases presented to them for the filing of charges come to them with all the questions answered and wrapped in a pretty, little bow. What prosecutors seem to forget is that the question they need to be asking is whether a jury of twelve, ordinary, normal, non-lawyer citizens would convict on the evidence presented to them or evidence easily developed by the prosecutor after the filing of charges.

(If you read Kelly’s article, by the way, know that her lede is a
straw man. The public’s complaint about prosecutors is not that they
fight to convict people whom they know to be innocent, nor that they
fight aggressively and fairly to convict people whom they believe to be guilty.
The complaint is that the Rosenthal-Siegler “win at all costs” culture
leads some prosecutors — even [especially?] those whom Kelly describes as “chicken”, to break the rules to win. Most prosecutors don’t cheat, just as most prosecutors aren’t chicken, but the office that tolerates one prosecutor breaking the rules deserves the loss of public trust that will inevitably follow.)

There’s more — much more — of this scathing critique of the prosecutors whom Kelly lauded when it suited her political interests. So what’s going on here?

It looks to me like marketing. The legal market is tough, especially when you’re trying to create a niche for yourself that the justice system had so far been able to do without. Kelly recognizes that her erstwhile colleagues are now her competition, because as long as the people of Texas (her potential customers) have faith in their elected DAs and their hired minions to do a good job, there’ll never be much of a market for the hired gun.

Kelly is, of course, using fear — the fear that the prosecutor prosecuting your loved one’s murderer won’t do a good job — to market herself. Fear notwithstanding, there’s fair marketing and unfair marketing. It’s fair to the customers and the competition to fairly depict the competition’s failings (to warn the customers). It’s unfair to paint the competition with such a broad brush that the customers get the wrong impression of the competition (to make the customers afraid).

Is Kelly’s marketing fair? AHCL, to whom goes the hat tip, is filled with fawning admiration still for every pronouncement that Kelly “authors”. An anonymous commenter on his blog (9:17 a.m.), however is “inflamed” by Kelly’s “tear[ing] down others in a desperate attempt to advance her relevance.”

What do you think?


0 responses to “Marketing the Hired-Gun Prosecutor”

  1. Maybe the 30 July 2008, post at 0912hrs, on AHCL,will shed some light on the inflammatory accusations launched on Ms. Siegler. Now let’s see how our criminal justice system conducts business in Harris County in the months and years to come. The defense bar should have a field day.
    There have been special prosecutors before Ms. Siegler and there will special prosecutors after Ms. Siegler. To imply that her entries on a women’ s blog would in any way cause a public uproar outside of your little world and actually influence an elected DA to abdicate his authority is ludicrous.

  2. Yes, there have been special prosecutors before. Some of Houston’s best defense lawyers have acted as special prosecutors when asked. But I don’t know of anyone before Kelly who has tried to make a living out of being a special prosecutor.

    Kelly knows what she’s doing. Marketing a law practice — especially a niche practice — successfully is done incrementally. You don’t go and buy television air time to advertise your availability; rather, you get your name spread about so that those who need you can find you when they’re looking for someone like you.

    I’m helping with the marketing effort by writing about it, of course. That’s okay — the experiment fascinates me, and I want to see what comes next. I expect the next step in August — Kelly is methodical.

  3. Well considering that Ms. Siegler’s preparation for her capital in Wharton will start up soon (if it hasn’t already given her reputation) and the actual trial will probably extend into the late fall that would be a safe bet.
    As for Ms. Siegler making a living as a special prosecutor, I find that prediction incredulous. She may act as a special prosecutor from time to time as a community service and to fulfill her dedication to crime victims; but I predict a local plaintiff lawyer or a big corporation will retain her legal services to the tune of $1MM+ in the form of a contingency interest or retainer within six (6) weeks from today. Now that should fascinate you.

  4. Before her hired-gun prosecutor marketing campaign began, I had Kelly figured for a plaintiff’s lawyer (representing victims of another sort), but someone reminded me that all plaintiff’s lawyers think they can try cases themselves. The big civil firms are looking for rainmakers, and Kelly probably doesn’t have much of a portable “book”.

    I don’t doubt that Kelly is eminently employable, but $1MM a year guaranteed? That sounds like a non-lawyer’s (or a government lawyer’s) idea of what real-world lawyers make.

  5. Actually I’m a retired investment banker. But that’s beside the point.
    Kelly Siegler is a typhoon maker my friend. That, combined with her court room prowess, is what will make her a superstar in yet another field of law. I’m confident Kelly has the ability to pick up the basics of civil procedure etc. Depositions will be a breeze and clerical support staff/law clerks go a long way. She is not the arrogant lady you portray her to be and will, of coarse, co-counsel with seasoned plaintiff attorneys. After all, “win at all costs”, right? I hope that won’t offend her clients and the Texas Supreme Court. I can’t wait for her to challenge one of their remands because of an excessive jury award.
    Like him or not, what sets John O’Quinn apart from the hoards of “Wanna Be’s” is that he prepares his case more thoroughly then those that call him “lucky” will ever appreciate. Kelly Siegler is obsessive in her trial preparation. John O’Quinn has masterful court room presence and jury appeal. Kelly Siegler’s court room charisma has no parallel. Anyone can be taught to do the mundane ordinary day to day…..very few will have Kelly Siegler’s magic. Only time will tell. Once you dig your hole deep enough we will wager on whose assessment is correct….have a good day.

  6. I am certain about the $1MM number, but I don’t know how we would resolve the bet.

    I should also add that, thanks to Kelly’s political party’s efforts, the tort system has been pretty well gutted in Texas, with worse to come (thanks to a constitutional amendment allowing caps on damages in all cases). If Kelly wants to make her millions in the civil courthouse, she’d better get rocking.

  7. There is only one (1) certainty in life and you missed that one as well. Notwithstanding, your assessment of the Republican Party is on the money…they have lost touch with the people and reality in general.
    This is the proposal:
    By 1 August 2009, Kelly Siegler will have secured a financial interest that will net her in excess of $1MM pretax in USD. There are three (3) caveats:
    1. since civil cases often don’t settle within one (1) year; in such an event, a mutually agreed upon 3rd party shall make a reasonable determination as to the USD value of Ms. Siegler’s interest in said case(s),
    2. any and all reparations derived outside the state of Texas as well as any and all funds acquired by virtue of the Kelly Siegler name shall not be precluded in asset valuation(I am aware of license issues)and
    3. in the unlikely event media coverage does not verify my victory; since I am not privileged to know her personally, you will contact Ms. Siegler directly to confirm who is the winner.
    If these terms are agreeable name the wager.

  8. Do try to keep up.

    I’m not betting against Kelly making a million dollars on her own; I like her, and hope she does, and I don’t know the current PI market well enough to say how much of a pipe dream that is. But she’ll have to go out on a limb to make the big bucks. I will bet against anyone guaranteeing it. That, I know, is not the way the legal business works — corporations are looking for cheap captive counsel, BigLaw is looking for partners with portable books of clients, and plaintiff’s lawyers are looking for

    The proposition is as follows:

    By September 15, 2008 (your six weeks) Kelly Siegler will not have been hired to do legal work by a law firm or corporation guaranteeing her $1MM in pretax earnings in the first year after employment begins. If she is, the firm or corporation will not carry through on the guarantee.

  9. Ah, my original six (6) week assertion. I was going with your “certainty” that she couldn’t make $1MM USDs in a year. Since a year obviously intimidates you we’ll go with six (6) weeks. GOTCHA! What’s the wager

  10. So as there is no confusion, we’re going with my terms as set forth earlier except the date will change from 1 August 2009 to 15 September 2008. It would be grossly unfair to limit Ms. Siegler’s earning potential to that of only accepting full time employment in the middle of a capital murder trial. Agreed?

  11. “I don’t doubt that Kelly is eminently employable, but $1MM a year guaranteed?”

    “I agree fully with you on Kelly’s potential. I still don’t see a firm guaranteeing her $1MM a year.”

    “I am certain about the $1MM number, but I don’t know how we would resolve the bet.”

    “I will bet against anyone guaranteeing it.”

    Seemed pretty consistent to me. Still does.

    I’ve taken the financial terms offblog.

  12. With all due respect, are you dim?

    The proposition is as follows:

    By September 15, 2008 (your six weeks) Kelly Siegler will not have been hired to do legal work by a law firm or corporation guaranteeing her $1MM in pretax earnings in the first year after employment begins. If she is, the firm or corporation will not carry through on the guarantee.

  13. That’s cool. I apparently was not clear enough on the delineation of terms as set forth earlier. I did not limit Ms. Siegler to a salary guarantee but rather offered to wager on her total ability to attain the financial goal set. For example, some buddies of her husband at Goldman Sachs my have a security issue that needs resolving, a plaintiff lawyer in town may want to split a contingency fee, her agents at William and Morris may have a movie or book deal in the works? Who knows? I am confident on her marketability. Your Ace in the hole is that she will continue to turn down offers to spend time with her family and Wharton will be her last hooray…..that’s the only real risk I have in this wager.

  14. I don’t think we disagree on Kelly’s potential upside potential. I think you’re just not bothering to read what I’m writing: there is no guaranteed million-dollar paycheck awaiting her. Making that mill (as a lawyer) is going to require taking some risks.

    The end.

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