Bryan Wilson strides into the Fort Worth Weekly building yesterday wearing a crisp suit and tie, calm as a church mouse, articulate and engaging.
I halfway expected him to come barreling through the glass doors, sending shards of glass flying while yelling “Texas Law Hawk!” The public knows him as the loud and manic attorney in the trending videos.
Wilson and buddy Nic Butts began making wacky videos for fun back when they were youngsters at Paschal High School in the early 2000s. Later, Jake R. Sam, an Austin filmmaker, joined in on the fun. Now the videos have a purpose other than simply amusing friends and family – they promote a fledgling law firm.
Wilson borrowed $10,000 and opened his business last year near the corner of West Belknap and Henderson Streets. The paltry budget left little room for print or television advertising, and so he relied on a series of videos to grab attention quickly and cheaply.
The first video, released last fall, consisted of Wilson running around a parking lot yelling “Law Hawk” for the most part. It’s funnier than it sounds.
“With the limited budget that I had to start the firm, this was the absolute best way — make something funny enough so that people spread it by themselves,” he said.
The nickname originated during a mock trial competition while Wilson attended law school at Texas Tech University. He told his classmates the hawk was his “power animal” and that he was “the Texas law hawk!” Everyone laughed, and the name stuck. Wilson likes making people laugh.
Sam posted the first low-to-no budget video on YouTube, and Wilson shared it on his Facebook page.
Friends shared the video, others joined in on the fun, and the video soon had 50,000 views despite its simple, uh, plot: “Somebody is getting pulled over, and the cop says, ‘I pulled you over on a hunch,’ ” Wilson said. “I come up there and kick the laptop out of his hands and say, ‘You can’t pull people over on a hunch!’ At the very end I take a big tree branch and try to smash it.”
No script, just friends having fun with a camera rolling.
“My friends are hilarious, the funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” he said. “We love making funny videos.”
Some of his fellow criminal defense attorneys weren’t amused, calling the commercials unprofessional.
“I don’t understand how they say it hurts the profession,” Wilson said. “Maybe lawyers are taking a holier than thou perspective on the legal profession. We’re just people like our clients. When people are charged with a crime they don’t want a holier than thou attitude. They want you to be someone like me, who’s been arrested before and knows what it feels like to have metal bracelets clamped down on your wrists and thrown in a freezing cold jail cell.” (Wilson and his high school buddies liked to party in addition to making videos, and he had a youthful scrape or two with police involving under-age drinking.)
Someone complained about the online commercial to the State Bar of Texas’ Advertising Review Department. That bunch determined that Wilson had broken a rule. Attorneys in commercials must say their real name every time they say their nickname. For instance, on those Jim Adler commercials, notice that he says, “I’m Jim Adler, THE TEXAS HAMMER!”
Wilson said his name at the beginning of the first video but then referred to himself as the Texas Law Hawk afterward. The ad review committee told Wilson to pull down his first video despite its popularity. Wilson was disappointed, but conceded. He wondered whether he should do another video, and, if so, whether he should tone it down.
Instead, he made a second video in January and raised the wacky bar to a whole new level (although he carefully followed the rule about using his real name). He runs around with an American flag, grabs a fish out of a river with his bare hands, and crashes through two walls.
Growing up watching courtroom television shows like Judge Judy meant he saw many commercials from the likes of Adler and Brian Loncar “The Strongarm.” Wilson loved them all. He figures nutty commercials might scare away some potential clients, while gaining others.
“There are people who get that I’m joking around in the commercials,” he said. “I’m not going to transfer that into court.”
And beyond the madcap, the videos include relevant information. Each video has a theme, educating people about their rights. For instance, the third video tells viewers “don’t blow,” meaning they’re not required to take a breath test. The video nabbed more than 1 million views in a week. (That’s Butts portraying the befuddled cop.)
The videos are trending — theCHIVE and reddit spotlighted them. Blog sites and newspapers across the country, including the New York Daily News, have written about them.
“My phone has been nonstop ringing,” Wilson said.
The new attorney doesn’t even have a secretary, although he’s about to hire one soon.
“My voice mail broke,” he said. “It was so full it was frozen. I had to take it to the store to get it fixed.”
People from as far away as Florida have called asking him to represent them in cases, although he only works criminal defense cases in Tarrant County and surrounding counties.
He’s even been asked to star in a reality television show (he said no due to client-attorney privileges and the confidential nature of cases).
“My clients come first,” he said.
Still, he enjoys the minor celebrity he’s earned in the past few months. He got a kick out of Chimy’s Marfa Room putting up a sign that said “The Texas Law Hawk Eats Here.” And he appreciates when fans recognize him and ask to take photos with him.
“It feels like a pat on the back,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll ask them, ‘What did you learn from the video?’ They’re like, ‘Don’t blow!’ Boy, that’s satisfying that they get that.”
He’s already got an idea for his fourth video. He doesn’t want to give anything away yet, but offered a hint of what’s to come: “My idea for the next one is going to be really dangerous. I’m going to have to get disability insurance before I do it.”