Where the world’s catchiest legal slogan came from.
Personal injury lawyer David Gruber says he’s the last person you want to be when you’re in the men’s room near the end of a Brewers game. The jokes aimed at this litigator, known for his “One call, that’s all” commercials, can spread like yawns. “You’ve got to roll with it,” he says. It doesn’t help that Gruber is NBA-tall and can be spotted from two blocks away. And the quips can get downright philosophical, asking if “One call, that’s all” will end up carved on his tombstone.
Yes, it seems a four-word catchphrase has come to saturate David Gruber’s entire public life. He first adopted it in the late 1990s with the assistance of a Dallas media company called Invision, which specialized in packaging and selling “One call, that’s all” advertising campaigns to personal injury lawyers around the country. Invision’s CEO, Jerry Bryant, hadn’t invented “One call,” but he had worked alongside a man who’d played a pivotal role in composing it: New Orleans advertising consultant Richard Sackett.
Sackett’s firm, Group Matrix, still claims to have been “first … in the field of legal advertising,” signing up its initial client the day after a 1977 Supreme Court opinion cleared the way for lawyers to advertise their services. One of Matrix’s early clients was Morris Bart, a New Orleans lawyer who ran print ads in the late 1970s. Years later, he was up late watching an infomercial for the Grapefruit 45 diet pill when he realized, “People just want to take a pill.”
He drove over to Sackett’s house near Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, and they spent hours brainstorming a potential slogan, something to make Morris’ counsel seem as easy as popping aspirin. They focused on the first action required to hire a lawyer: placing a phone call. One call. “One call to get it all?” Nope, that’s not it. “One call is all it takes.” These tag lines were still too clunky. “One call, one call,” they puzzled. “One call, that’s all!”
Bart says he first used the magic words in a TV commercial in the mid-1980s, and they were like Miracle-Gro for his firm, which grew to cover four states. Later adopters of “One call,” such as Gruber and Las Vegas’ Glen Lerner, have, for the most part, avoided trademark scuffles by keeping their use of the phrase local. “If they’re just using it in their region,” says Shubha Ghosh, a professor of law at UW-Madison who specializes in intellectual property, “it’s fine.”