Pennsylvania lawyer's ad starring smiling thugs draws criticism

PITTSBURGH Fri Mar 7, 2014 5:18pm EST

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PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A Pittsburgh lawyer's online ad showing smiling robbers, drug dealers and prostitutes flashing thumbs up and thanking him for getting them off the hook has garnered tens of thousands of views and drawn fire from a local bar association.

One fictional criminal pauses while climbing out a window, carrying a laptop to say "Thanks Dan," to the camera, while a pair of men carrying handguns offer a similar message before pulling ski masks over their faces in the three-minute, 27-second ad posted on YouTube by criminal defense attorney Daniel Muessig.

Muessig, a 2012 University of Pittsburgh Law School graduate, then makes his own pitch: "Trust me, I may have a law degree, but I think like a criminal."

The spot has been viewed more than 80,000 times since Muessig posted it on Thursday, and the 32-year-old attorney said he believed the tongue-in-cheek approach would appeal to possible clients.

"I wanted to connect with my potential clients in a way that people from my generation could understand," Muessig said in a Friday phone interview. "I wanted to give people something that would be memorable and entertaining."

Tom Loftus, spokesman for the Allegheny County Bar Association, said he found the ad "insulting to Pittsburgh lawyers and lawyers across the country, who take great pride in their profession."

He said he worried that the video could be misinterpreted: "There could be kids watching it, or people who don't even understand what tongue-in-cheek means, and what they'll see is: if you commit a crime this attorney will get you off without any explanation."

Muessig defended the spot but said he would take it down if law enforcement or a legal professional organization asked him to.

"It's a send-up of the cartoonishly amoral Jewish criminal defense attorney," he said. "The criminal justice system is broken, it creates a system where we are basically putting people on a conveyor belt to prison. If you want to get your ire up, get your ire up about that."

(Editing by Scott Malone and Richard Chang)

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