Opening Statements

Say ‘Cheese’

Posted Apr 1, 2009 8:50 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Want to find out which former Bush administration judicial nominee has a Doberman pinscher named Jackson? Or which D.C. power lawyer wears Birkenstocks? Then you might want to subscribe to Legal Bisnow, a daily electronic newsletter that bills itself as “(almost) never boring.”

With a circulation of 15,000, the publication is an inside-the-Beltway, legal-themed mash of the New York Social Diary and a country club newsletter. That is, of course, if your country club counts lawyers like Miguel Estrada, now a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, as a member.

Photo by Getty Images

Legal Bisnow is one of eight newsletters published by Mark Bisnow, a lawyer and former radio host. But much of the entertainment comes from reading the answers to the questions asked by editor John Ford, a former associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. The mild-mannered Ford admits that covering the D.C. legal social scene took some work at first: “I kind of had to work on my party chatter skills.”

And lawyers didn’t know what to make of Legal Bisnow, or what appearing in it would do for the image many large firms cultivate. “But now people know us and it’s all good,” Ford says. “The idea is to provide real, sophisticated, inside-baseball news, but do it with personality and let people have fun with it.”

Ford has that rare ability to get usually buttoned-up lawyers to let their hair down. How else to explain Estrada’s willingness to pose with a bumper sticker that says: “My Dober­man is smarter than your honor student.”

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the extent to which people are willing to play along,” Ford says. “The more accomplished someone is, the more likely they are to be gracious.”

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