You're faced with a serious problem, and are in need of legal assistance — luckily, there's a reputable, established law firm nearby. They're even putting a named partner on your case! Only thing is, that name seems like it's trying to tell you something...
Some common variants are:
- They have a Punny Name, such as Private Eye magazine's perennial foes, 'Sue, Grabbit, and Runne.'
- The firm consists of two or more names that seem relevant to each other, followed by an Odd Name Out (example: The Law Offices of Swindler, Backstabber, Bloodsucker, and Bob). A common variant in America is several "ethnic" names followed by an "Anglo" one, e.g. "Acosta, Silverstein, Severino, Chandrasekhar, and Smith."
- The names of those representing the firm are basically a Shout-Out to a celebrity or otherwise well-known person who is identified by his/her full name (example: The Law Firm of Robert, Louis, and Stevenson).
- The firm has an exceedingly large number of named partners. (Example: The real firm Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf.)
- The firm appears to be represented by nepotism, or individuals that just happen to share the same last name (example: Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill).
- One or all of the partners have Names to Run Away from Really Fast, as an Evil Lawyer Joke ("Faust, Sinister and Moloch").
The trope codifier is "Dewey, Cheatham and Howe", which in and of itself has also been used in fiction, and still gets some mileage, even to this day.
The joke also appears for other professions, such as a firm of cowboy builders named "Bodgit and Scarper" or "Blagget, Bodgit and Scarper".note
- A Capitol One commercial features their Visigoth spokesmen, another Viking named Boris, and their goat establishing their new law firm: Boris, Boris, and Goat, Law Offices.
- Little Caesar's recent commercial involves the representatives of the law firm of Smingleberry, Smingleberry, and Smingleberry attempting to order a pizza online and cutting through the terms of agreement and other legalities involved with using the internet to order a pizza, until one of their associates informs them they can just go to Little Caesar's where they have hot-n-ready pizzas for five dollars and no waiting.
- Captain Carrot and the Final Ark featured a lawyer from Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.
Pig Iron: That's a very old joke.
Lawyer: We're a very old law firm.
- Lucky Luke has the Chester, Chester, Chester & Chester law firm. When he's asked which one he has an appointment with, he replies "the last one, I think".
- The first time he's in town, he asks the doorman for Chester, Chester, & Chester, only to be asked if maybe he means Chester, Chester, Chester, & Chester.
- She-Hulk used to work for the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway. The first three are Mythology Gag names relating to Marvel Comics founder Martin Goodman, Stan Lee (Leiber), and Jack Kirby (Kurtzberg). Of the senior partners, Holliway was the only one we ever saw.
- Top 10 has the law firm of Medevac, Fischmann and Goebbels. Medevac (short for MEDical EVACuation) is a Brain in a Jar , Fischmann (a German spelling of Fishman) is an anthropomorphic shark and Goebbels has not appeared on page.
- Stunt Dawgs: In one story, lawyer Slyme Whiplash works for the law firm of Dewey, Cheatam and Howe.
- In Amalgum - Lockhart's Folly Lockhart's legal firm is Fleecem, Cheatem, and Beatem - a firm he started, staffed and named.
- In Again and Again Lucius' legal firm is Dodge, E. and Dodge, E. R.
- In Harry Potter and the Champion's Champion the Malfoys' legal firm is Goodwin, Badwin and Callevens.
- In Go Tell Everybody Harry hires an attorney from the firm of Dewey, Screwim and Howe.
- In Amber and Emerald, Harry and Hermione recruit the goblin and witch law firm of Lawmaster Gripsack and (Meredith) Twist.
- The 'four partners, all with the same name' joke (see 'Jokes' below) was given a Babylon 5 twist by Mike Hubbard:
Client: Can I speak to Mr Kosh, please?
Vorlon: Death. Completion. Becoming.
Client: Well can I speak to Mr Kosh, please?
Vorlon: Age. Gardening. Retirement.
Client: Well in that case can I speak to Mr Kosh, please?
Vorlon: Sustenance. The fulcrum of the day. Return is at the hour of gargling.
Client: Well can I speak to Mr Kosh, please?
Vorlon: The request has already been granted. The time of speaking is ended.
- In The Awakening of a Magus, Lucius Malfoy's legal advisors are literally named Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe.
- Public Affairs has the firm of Malfoy, Malfoy and Malfoy - which Draco Malfoy is the sole employee and owner of. He claims that as a solicitor, barrister and orator, he requires recognition in all aspects of his brilliance.
- Super Mario Bros.: King Koopa passes himself off as a lawyer when he first introduces himself to the Mario Bros; "I'm Larry Lazard, of Lazard, Lazard, Conda, Dactile... and Cohen..."
- The Three Stooges: The Movie has Larry and Curly looking for a lawyer; on the floor of the building they're looking in, they see a variety of punny tenants' names such as "Proba, Keester & Wintz, Proctologists" and "Ditcher, Quick and Hyde, Divorce Lawyers" (pictured above), before arriving at the law offices of "Kickham, Harter & Indagroyne".
- Enchanted has the firm of Churchill, Harline and Smith, a Shout-Out to the songwriters of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- In the Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers (adapted from the stage show), Captain Spaulding dictates a letter to the law firm of "Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger and McCormick".
- There's this old gem: A woman goes to a lawyer with a workplace complaint. "I was the most qualified for the job, I have 10 years experience in that field, and yet they hired a drunken cocaine addict, just because he's the boss' nephew." The lawyer answers, "Well, madam, you've come to the right place! We handle these nepotism cases all the time here at O'Brian, O'Brian, O'Brian, & O'Brian, Attorneys at Law."
- A Jewish joke: "This is the law firm of Cohen, Cohen, Cohen & Cohen. "May I speak to Cohen?" "Sorry sir, Cohen is in London today." "Not a problem, just let me talk to Cohen". "I'm afraid Cohen is in court". "What about Cohen?" "Really sorry, Cohen cannot take your call right now." "Fine I'll speak to Cohen." "Cohen speaking!"
- This is quoted in the Blandings Castle books, with the law firm called Shapiro, Shapiro, Shapiro and Shapiro.
- A Russian version of the previous joke, crossing over with Odd Name Out variety: A man comes to a law firm Rabinovich, Brecher, Weinstein, Katz & Ivanov and specifically asks for Ivanov to represent him. "Why don't you want to work with other companions?" "You know, if this man managed to become a partner in such a close-knit company, I'd prefer him over anyone else."
- A common joke with many set-ups contacts the law firm of "Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe." Other variants include "Fuxom and Snickers," "Scewham and Burnham," "Scrooham, Cheatham, and Burnham," and so on. The ultimate firm might be, "Howe, Dewey, Cheatham, Fuxom, Screwham, and Burnham."
- An old joke about Ted Kennedy being defended in the Chappaquidick incident by the infamous law firm of "Winer, Diner, Dicker and Dunker".
- The Goodies produced three books, and in all three a Running Gag is litigation via various firms, such as "Godwater, Norfull, Ripov, and Cheet" and "Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots, Marchinup and Downagain". The latter was a Genre Savvy version, since it turned out that the firm had only three partners and both the fourth Boots and "Marchinup and Downagain" were an invention of the senior Mr. Boots.
- The Hobbit offers us Messrs Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes, a notary firm that grubbed Bilbo's burrow and was selling it.
- In Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy, there is mention of an Illuminati front organization which pretends to be a law firm called "Washington, Weishaupt, Budweiser and Keif".
"Later, for some reason I was never told, they changed the name to Ruly, Kempt, Sheveled and Couth, and then to Weery, Stale, Flatt, and Profitable"
- The father of one of Ross's friends in the Ross O'Carroll-Kelly series of books is a partner in a law firm named Hook, Lyon and Sinker.
- In Vanity Fair, there is some ambiguity as to whether Villain Protagonist Becky Sharp murdered her companion Joss for insurance money. When the solicitors from his insurance company raise suspicions, she sends in her own solicitors from the film of Burke, Thurtell, and Hayes—all named after infamous murderers.
- S. J. Perelman's "This Little Piggy Went to Market" mentions a pair of divorce lawyers, Howells & Imprecations.
- In Catch-22, Milo Minderbinder's trade empire is "M&M Enterprises, Fine Fruits and Produce". The ampersand is only there because otherwise people might think it was a one-man operation.
- In Michael Connelly's The Reversal, Harry Bosch meets with FBI Agent (and old flame) Rachel Walling at an office that the bureau had recently used in a money-laundering sting operation. The office was set up as the law firm of Franco, Becerra & Izturis. Bosch thought the name was clever.
- Two of the main characters in Peter Straub's Ghost Story are partners in a law firm called Hawthorne and James. Ricky Hawthorne remarks that it's a pity they can't find a junior partner named Poe.
- Gravity's Rainbow includes the law firm of Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus, and Short.
- Rivers of London features a law firm called Bock, Loupe and Stag, as a play on Wolfram and Hart.
- Not a law firm, but an example in How NOT to Write a Novel involves three old ex-military friends who meet often to play cards whose names happen to be Smothers, Katz, and Chortles.
- Les Misérables makes reference to two lawyers with the last names Corbeau and Renard (Raven and Fox, respectively) who went into business together but then eventually got their names legally changed because people kept comparing them to one of Aesop's Fables. Overlaps with Unfortunate Names.
- During a segment featuring odd billboards, signs, and other such things on America's Funniest Home Videos, one video showed the sign for a law firm, whose names actually were Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe. There's a good chance that one was at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It's there for a specific reason.
- Angel has a recurring Big Bad in a particularly evil-aligned Occult Law Firm named Wolfram & Hart, who turn out to be the Earth front organisation for a trio of extremely powerful extra-dimensional demons known as the Wolf, Ram, and Hart.
- A subplot in the fourth season of Arrested Development involves the law firm of Feinstein, Feinstein, Feinstein, and Feinstein.
- One episode of Freddy's Nightmares used the common "Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe" variant.
- Green Acres: As established in the pilot episode, Oliver originally served as an associate for the Law Offices of Felton, O'Connell, Clay, Blakely, Harmon, Dillon, and Paster.
- Hee Haw had Cletus Biggs of "'Biggs, Shy & Stir', Kornfield Kounty's most honorable law firm".
- M*A*S*H. In "Major Ego," Margaret's continued legal battle of her divorce from Donald Penobscott comes in the form of a letter from the law firm of Whitehurst, Blinn, Blinn, and Whitehurst.
- The original version of The Planets Funniest Animals parodied this in one episode, when segment featured a fake informercial, for a law firm, aimed at pets: the Law Firm of Charles, Nelson, and Reilly.
- 30 Rock: Tracy hires a lawyer from Dewey, Cheatum and Livingson.
- The Wire:
Operator: Baltimore City Police Department.Proposition Joe: [lawyer voice] Uh yes, ma'am, this is Sidney Handjerker with Handjerker, Cohen & Bromberg. I'm trying to locate a Sgt. Thomas Hauk in regards to a client I'm representing?Operator: Hold, please. (the operator transfers him to another line)Lt. Hoskins: Mayor's office. Lieutenant Hoskins.Proposition Joe: [ghetto voice] Uh, ye-yes, hello. This is Ervin Pepper of Pepper, Pepper & Bayleaf. I'm calling in regards to a Sgt. Thomas Hauk in regards to a-Lt. Hoskins: He's no longer on this detail. Hold on for a minute. (he is transferred AGAIN)Charles Marimow: Major Crimes. Marimow.Proposition Joe: (slow, measured voice) Uh, this is Dr. Jay, calling with test results for Thomas Hauk.Charles Marimow: He's on the street. You want to leave a message on it?
- Maui does a prank on Ziggy Sobotka involving a "paternity lawsuit" and a telephone call across the room from "Shyster, Shyster & Shyster".
- Proposition Joe imitates a white man trying to get information on Herc.
- World's Dumbest... plays with this frequently, particularly in the "Criminals" and "Outlaws" episodes.
- John Enos once does a fake informercial for his own law firm: the Law Firm of Enos, Enos, and Enos.
- In another episode, we're treated to a clip of an intoxicated motorist ranting in the backseat of a cruiser, inflicting harm on himself, and threatening legal action against the officer, mentioning his attorney known as Gilleto. Cue the cast putting on a fake informercial for the Law Offices of Gilleto, Gilleto, and Gilleto.
- In one clip, a divorce lawyer breaks into a man's house to help his ex-wife retrieve belongings she claims belong to her; upon kicking in the back door, Mike Britt inquires if this lawyer is from the firm of Gangsta, Gangsta, and Gangsta. When the clip is over, Billy Kimball puts on a fake informercial for firm of Kimball and Kimball, the firm that doesn't handle actual legal cases.
- The Three Stooges once played lawyers going by the names "Dewey Cheatham AND Howe".
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Uncle Phil works for the law firm Firth, Wynn and Meyer, a wordplay shout-out to the rock band Earth, Wind & Fire. Will points this out when he's introduced to them, asking "When's your next album coming out?"
- In an episode of Psych, Shawn meets an unsuccessful lawyer named Adam Hornstock who works for the law firm Hornstock, Hornstock, Biederman, and Hornstock. It turns out that the names represent his grandfather, father, sisternote and brother respectively. After winning his case and getting his confidence up he mentions that he is getting his name added to the firm.
- Fun with Acronyms version on the 2006 series Justice with protagonist law firm Trott, Nicholson, Tuller and Graves (TNT & G)-not a bad acronym for a firm that uses all types of Courtroom Antics, mostly spin-doctoring.
- Brazilian comedian Marco Bianchi has mentioned lawyers whose full names are all animal words, Coelho Sardinha and Formiga Leitão (Rabbit Sardine and Ant Piglet), of Sardinha & Leitão Associates.
- Spitting Image: During the Cabaret-inspired closing credits of the 1987 election special, we see a law firm called Bogelby, Hargle and Pratt - middlemen by appointment.
- The aforementioned Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill in Better Call Saul (the founding Hamlin is dead, and it's now run by his son Howard and co-founder Charles McGill) are a well-respected law firm, and it goes politely unmentioned whether Howard Hamlin really earned having his name above the door. However, when Howard testifies in a dispute with Charles' brother Jimmy that the younger McGill wasn't hired in order to avoid the appearance of nepotism, Kim relishes the opportunity to ask him about that on record.
- The 2018 drama Burden of Truth has big-city attorney Joanna Hanley getting involved in a case of illness in her home town. She first clashes with former classmate Billy Crawford but joins with him when she realizes how serious things are. During an early fight, Billy snaps he doesn't have the resources to do more investigating.
Joanna: You're Crawford & Associates.Billy: It just sounded a lot cooler. Yeah, one man crew.
- In Gilmore Girls, when Luke is getting a divorce after impulsively marrying his girlfriend, he just wants it over and done with, but she's a lawyer, so her firm gets involved, insisting on drawing out the divorce proceedings. They refuse to believe that Luke isn't seeking anything and hasn't gotten a lawyer of his own. Luke declares he does have a lawyer, Daniel Dewey, of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe. The actual lawyer realizes Luke is messing with him and walks away. Luke calls him back to give him Dewey's phone number: 555-5555.
- Private Eye often refers to Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Runne.
- Also, the New York-based Shyster, Shyster & Kruk has been mentioned at least once.
- Charles Addams did a visual variant on this with a cartoon showing the members of Smith, Smith, Miller & Smith leaving their office- three tall identical guys, and one shorter guy who looks totally different, and as indicated by the name, is standing third in line.
- A Punch cartoon had the law firm of Bastard, Bastard, Knight and Bastard, with the client saying "No offence, Mr Knight, but I was hoping to speak to one of the others."
- In one episode of Adventures in Odyssey, Edwin Blackgard is visited by a lawyer from the firm: Dunkey, Dunkey, Dunkey, and McCormic.
- On Car Talk, the hosts reference a fake law firm by the name of Dewey, Cheatam, and Howe at least once per show. The credits always list their legal counsel as "Hugh Louis Dewey, also known to [group of people] at Harvard Square as Huey Louie Dewey."
- Groucho & Chico Marx's radio show Flywheel, Shyster & Flywheel, set at a small law firm, was originally called Beagle, Shyster & Beagle but an attorney actually named Beagle threatened to sue so Beagle "went back to his maiden name" Flywheel. (Both Beagles, and both Flywheels, in the company name are Groucho. We never meet Shyster.)
- In one episode of Old Harry's Game, Satan pretends to be a lawyer from the firm of Bulstrode, Bulstrode and Thirdname.
- Yet Another Partridge In A Pear Tree: Toward the end, the protagonist is driven to begin legal proceedings. Her lawyer is from the firm of Graball, Twister and Fleecem (based in Suet-under-Writ).
- The Midville city map in the Car Wars: Deluxe Edtion box set includes a building labeled "Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe."
- In Animal Crackers, Captain Spaulding dictates a letter to the law firm of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick (or Vasserschlagel, Vasserschlegel, Vasserschlugel, and McCormick, according to one script). At one point he has his secretary read back to him what he's written thus far:
Jamison: "Honorable Charles H. Hungadunga..."
Capt. Spaulding: Hungerdunger. Hoong.
Capt. Spaulding: That's it, Hungerdunger.
Jamison: [continues reading] "... care of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick."
Capt. Spaulding: You've left out a Hungerdunger. You left out the main one, too. Thought you could slip one over on me, didn't you, eh?
- The Importance of Being Earnest makes passing mention of a law firm called Markby, Markby and Markby. Lady Bracknell comments that the Markbys are held in high esteem for their profession—one of them is even occasionally invited to dinner parties.
- In Escape from Monkey Island, Guybrush has to talk to the law firm of Whipp, Thrawtle, and Digg in order to stop the attempts to demolish his wife's house.
- Fallen London has, among others, the law firm of Baseborn & Fowlingpiece and the shipbuilding company Leadbeater & Stainrod.
- The manual for Frontier: Elite II opens with a legal letter informing the player that they have inherited a spaceship. The name of the law firm is Sue, Cripple & Sneer.
- The manual for Elite Dangerous opens with a letter from the same firm, informing them that they have been gifted a spaceship by an anonymous benefactor.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, there is a law firm called Goldberg, Ligner, and Shyster. Shyster is a word for a lawyer or politician who uses questionable methods. Ligner is likely derived from the German word for "liar" which is "Lügner" and may be pronounced like "Ligner" if you're not familiar with German.
- Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals features the law firm "Dewey, Cheatem & Howe". He meets with Suzi Cheatem to file for divorce (and attempt to seduce her, adding another layer to the "cheat" pun).
- The Oregon Trail II features a law firm in the default starting town, with the standard name of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe.
- In Obduction, you can find an ad for the law offices of "Kenway, Bilhem & Bale" (as in "can we bill'em and bail").
- Ace Attorney has the Wright & Co. Law Offices, which is later renamed to the Wright Anything Agency when they start practicing more than just law. Trucy Wright likes to greet new potential clients by saying some variant on "You've come to the Wright place".
- In Scandal Sheet, Ito works for the firm of Robben, Olde, Widdows, & Laffing.
- Exterminatus Now: The Inquisition's official law firm is Carrion, Carrion and Diamondback, made up of a vulture, a hyena and a rattlesnake.
- In General Protection Fault, a few law firms' names end up being amusing acronyms. There's the one Nicole works for (SUE EM), the first one Trent visits when trying to get a lawyer to sue Fred for libel (SUCKER), and the one that finally takes his case (DEAD).
- The Salvation War has "the law firm of Bleedum, Grabbit and Runne".
- Averted with Marshall, Carter and Dark, an organization antagonistic to the SCP Foundation (the Foundation wants to keep dangerous artifacts away from humanity in general; Marshall, Carter and Dark want to sell them to rich idiots). Dark is the only one with a Meaningful Name.
- The Simpsons episode "Bart the Fink" features the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham, Howe and Weissman.
- In "Black Eyes, Please", Ned wants Homer to punch him in the eye as retribution from Ned punching him earlier, and this exchange occurs.
Ned: Homer, if you punch me, we'll be even according to Exodus, Leviticus and Matthew.
Homer: So you hired a law firm, eh?
- In 'Barting Over', Bart wants to be legally emancipated from his parents. Some potential law firms he visited are 'Badger, Haggle, and Bill', 'Lovum and Burnham, Family Law', and 'Hackey, Joke, and Dunnit'.
- In "Black Eyes, Please", Ned wants Homer to punch him in the eye as retribution from Ned punching him earlier, and this exchange occurs.
- Spongebob Squarepants: Law firm is Curly, Combover, and Bald. And yes, the guys actually have these hairstyles.
- In the Rocky and Bullwinkle storyline "Rue Britannia", the late Earl of Krancase was represented by the law firm of Lamb, Curry, and Rice.
- Danger Mouse at one point comes in contact with the lawyers of "Chatham, Cheatham and Runne". They lawyer he is meeting is none of those gentlemen since "Mr. Chatham is in Cheatham, Mr. Cheatham is in Chatham and Mr. Runne has gone for a walk."
- The Animaniacs episode "La La Law" has this line:
Yakko: We're from the Law Firm of Warner...
Yakko: and Mime. He's our silent partner.
- Ralph Bakshi revives his 1960s Terrytoons creation the Mighty Heroes in the 1987 Mighty Mouse reboot. Here they're now long-in-the-tooth accountants in the firm of Man, Man, Man, Man and Man—mighty chartered accountants.
- Oscar Proud of The Proud Family was represented by Dewie, Cheatum, and Howe.
- The Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "A Night of Fright is No Delight" had a pair of lawyers named Creeps and Crawls.
- There was a famous embezzler in the early 2000s named Bernie Madoff (pronounced "made-off"). Robin Williams lampshaded how fitting it was for an embezzler to have such a name: "What's next? A law firm called Dewey, Fuckyou and Howe?"
- Beate Zschäpe, a neo-nazi incarcerated in Germany for multiple murders, was represented at her trial by a law firm called "Sturm, Stahl and Heer" (storm, steel and army, all of which evoke associations of nazism). It should be noted that Zschäpe apparently selected her defenders by virtue of their names alone.
- A lawsuit against Glenn Beck for defamation includes two of the journalists on his show — "Mr. Cheatwood" and "Mr. Weasel."
- In Carbondale, Illinois, there's a law firm by the name of "Dick Hunter and Associates, Ltd." They specialize in real estate.
- The intercontinental law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. Or as their logo has it, "Fried Frank" for short, which sounds more like the name of a hot dog stand than a law firm.
- There are at least two law firms - one specializing in personal injury! - named "Slaughter & Slaughter".