No website needed for Berstein Law Office

For Thursday’s Law Talk, I featured Michelle Bernstein, who makes up half of Bernstein Law Office.

Because Michelle and her husband have a specialized, boutique firm, they’re able to offer competitive rates for lawyers of their caliber.

“We could have an office, but we just figure, well, we don’t have to, and you can kind of pass that saving onto your clients in the form of lower rates,” she said.

But that’s not to say they skimp on technology. Since they are so small, Bernstein Law Office relies on having the most up-to-date computers and office machinery that they can reasonably use in a home office. In fact, they try to be paperless whenever possible.

Interestingly enough, however, the firm does not have a website. That’s because their reputation precedes them.

“We have thought about it, but there doesn’t really seem to be a need for a website,” Bernstein said. “We are not looking for clients who would necessarily be shopping for a lawyer by a website. Most of our clients are from other clients and from other business associates and people who have seen our work.”

Employees at Heart of Sullivan Branding

While talking to Michael Thompson for this week’s “end of an era” story – which focused the ad agency guru’s retirement and the merger of Thompson & Co. into cs2 to form Sullivan Branding – I was intrigued by his concern for his employees.

The combined 80-person firm will be comprised of 64 employees in its Memphis office and 16 in its Nashville office.

When two firms merge, there is usually a duplication of people and the resulting loss of jobs. But Sullivan Branding is unique in that regard, Thompson said, explaining that only three Thompson employees will be let go.

Thompson once calculated the turnover rate at his firm over five years – 20 percent. That means over 35 years, Thompson & Co. has employed well over 300 people.

But to Thompson, “that’s life.” And his “training ground” experience has solidified his outlook on leadership.

“Nowadays, employees want more than anything to be heard and to be recognized,” he said. “Give them a pat on the back every now and then. My goal was always to employ those who kind of look forward to going to work every morning; no one really wakes up completely wanting to go to work. And when they go home at the end of the day, my hope was that their self-worth had been improved in some way.”

Perhaps the fact that cs2 puts on a monthly “Fuel Friday” meeting highlighting employee achievements will even further ease Thompson’s “employee-first” mentality.

Brian Sullivan, principal of Sullivan Branding, “called it a hoot-n-holler” type of celebration that recognizes three outstanding employees for their sharp, genuine and fearless performance.

The first Sullivan Branding Fuel Friday was actually held on a Wednesday – yesterday afternoon, in fact, at the new Brass Door off Madison.

“We’re indoctrinating the new and the current Fuel Friday on steroids,” Sullivan told The Daily News recently. “This meeting will introduce the work that we’ll be doing together.”

On Political Timing


The new countywide school board is sworn in Monday Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Memphis City Schools auditorium.

But one of the new board members will take his oath either before or after that ceremony.

Mike Wissman is taking the oath of office as the new mayor of Arlington at the same time in a ceremony scheduled before this week’s meeting of the new school; board and planning commission setting the time for board members to do the honors.

You can read more about what’s ahead for the two schools consolidation groups in Friday’s edition of The Daily News which goes up online at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

One of the challenges for both groups is introducing new citizens to what is essentially a political undertaking even if those involved don’t recognize it as such.

That was what was behind Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s remark to the groups Wednesday that they would be challenged in every way by the undertaking.

On the other hand, this is the third effort of its kind in as many years that has taken citizens never before involved and dropped them into the roiling political waters that are Memphis.

There was the Metro Charter Commission of 2009 into 2010 that included some tried political warriors but a good number of newcomers. And there was the Memphis Charter Commission that drafted a set of city charter changes approved by voters in 2008 including the requirement that a council member accused of wrongdoing is automatically suspended from all council duties.

In both of those cases, the newcomers to the political process – elected in the case of the Memphis Charter Commission, appointed in the case of the Metro Charter Commission – seemed overwhelmed at first. It was not so much the detail involved but the reaction from the public. They were better at the detail work than some of the political veterans. But those on the Metro Charter Commission in particular got a real baptism by fire when it came to how the public reacted to what they were just discussing even before they made a decision.

In both cases, those new to the process ultimately lived to tell the story and develop their own ideas about what they would keep about the process and what should change. The truth is their very presence changes the process even if incrementally.

With those precedents, for all of the talk about the same faces and names showing up to run for any and all offices, it is encouraging to see that we are growing the circle of political involvement even if those walking into the circle almost certainly wonder initially if they have been ambushed.



The Early Vote … So Far


Through Tuesday, nearly 7,000 Memphians have voted early in advance of the Oct. 6 election day.

To put that in perspective, the number is 1.6 percent of the city’s 423,520 voters.

We won’t know who the early voters have selected until election night. The early votes will be the first tallied. But we know just about everything else about them down to their names.

So far, 56.2 percent are black and 22 percent are white. The remaining 21.7 percent are “other” which means other racial groups or those who didn’t indicate a race on their voter registration forms. The question is optional when registering to vote.

55.8 percent are women and 44.2 percent are men.

The totals include some absentee voters. But most are those citizens showing up at the 16 early voting sites across the city.

So far, Bishop Byrne High School is the most popular early voting site with a turnout of 948 there. That is followed by Riverside Baptist Church on South Third with 621 and White Station Church of Christ with 594. Election officials have plenty of maps that show most early voters go to the site nearest their home.

But any voter from any part of the city can vote at any of the early voting sites and vote a ballot that will include the district races particular to their home address.

Early voting ends Oct. 1 and election day is Oct. 6.


Romney at Memphis fundraiser: Obama is clueless about the economy

Mitt Romney was in town today for a fundraiser hosted by former Saks Inc. chairman and CEO Brad Martin. And it seems the former Massachusetts governor availed himself of an opportunity to show a cadre of the city’s business elite that he’s not the wooden caricature ascribed to him by the national press.

The event was closed to the press. But one attendee, from the financial services industry, described Mitt in his Memphis appearance this week as livelier than he’s seen him up to now.

Mitt lambasted federal agencies – specifically calling out the EPA – as hamstringing businesses with regulations that he says are getting in the way of job creation.

Mitt said Obama “is clueless about the economy.”

He also said that one of his first acts as president would be to grant a waiver to every state to exempt it from “Obamacare” until such time as the president’s signature health care legislation could be repealed.

Meanwhile, that sound you hear in the distance is a Texas twang. It belongs to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who will be in town next week at the Memphis Botanic Garden for a fundraiser of his own.