Press Release: Lawyerist Sues TechnoLawyer to Invalidate Its BigLaw and SmallLaw Trademarks

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Minnesota-based law practice blog Lawyerist filed a federal lawsuit (PDF) against PeerViews, Inc., parent company of New York–based law blog TechnoLawyer, to invalidate its trademarks on the terms BigLaw and SmallLaw.

Lawyerist is a leading law practice blog that offers information and related products and services to attorneys at both small and large law firms. Lawyerist publishes articles about all aspects of law practice and the legal industry, and it has published numerous articles in which the terms BigLaw and SmallLaw or the phrases big law and small law appear.

TechnoLawyer publishes nine commercial email newsletters, among them newsletters it calls BigLaw and SmallLaw. These newsletters are sent by email, although the five most-recent newsletters are available on TechnoLawyer’s website via a small Flash portal.

In the lawsuit, Lawyerist is represented by local counsel The Glover Law Firm and nationally-prominent First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza, who also writes the Legal Satyricon blog.


In February, Lawyerist published an article by Gyi Tsakalakis, Above the Law Goes Small Law, about blog Above the Law and its new columns on solo and small firm law practice.

Shortly afterward, Lawyerist received a take-down notice from Fish & Richardson, PeerViews’s intellectual property law firm. Fish attorney Kristen McCallion said she was

concerned that such use will diminish our client’s goodwill in its distinctive SmallLaw trademark, and cause the public to mistakenly believe that the columns to be published by Above the Law, as well as the other publications listed . . . , may be connected or affiliated in some way with, and/or endorsed or approved by, PeerViews [TechnoLawyer’s parent company] . . . .

History of BigLaw and SmallLaw

The terms BigLaw and SmallLaw, and the related phrases big law and small law, were in widespread use by online media for many years before PeerViews registered trademarks on the terms for its email newsletters in 2010.

Examples that predate PeerViews’s trademark include the following:

The terms BigLaw and SmallLaw and the phrases big law and small law belong to the public; nobody owns these terms anymore than a company could claim a trademark on a phrase like big business.

Response by the blogging community

Lawyerist published the letter from Fish on February 28th, and the blogging community responded.

  • In a post on her blog, MyShingle, solo practice advocate Carolyn Elefant wrote “my fellow solo and small law bloggers and lawyer-colleagues everywhere, let it be known that small law belongs to us!”
  • TechDirt asked, rhetorically, “Really? I mean, really? Anyone reading the original post or just headline who isn’t a complete moron, would know that Lawyerist was using the term in a perfectly descriptive sense.”
  • Above the Law, which has used similar terms for years, asked for reader input.

None of the websites who used BigLaw or SmallLaw in the past seem to have received a takedown notice from PeerViews, and it remains unclear why Lawyerist was singled out. However, the ABA Journal reached out to TechnoLawyer’s publisher, Neal Squillante, who provided a written statement that may explain why. In his statement, Squillante complained that, although TechnoLawyer apparently linked to Lawyerist every other day for two years, Lawyerist never linked back to his walled-off email newsletters.


To protect its right to use BigLaw, big law, SmallLaw, and small law, as well as the right of the public and the blogging community, to use those terms without fear of reprisal, Lawyerist sued PeerViews to invalidate its trademarks.

Lawyerist also asked for a declaration in Minnesota federal court that its use of the phrase small law did not infringe on PeerViews’s SmallLaw trademark.

In the complaint, Lawyerist alleges that

There can be no clearer example of trademark abuse than this one, in which a business is attempting to assert trademark rights over a commonly-used term, especially because that term was used in its commonly-understood sense.


Sam Glover

StartupLawyer.MN (The Glover Law Firm)


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  • You go boys!

  • JBS

    Go get ’em.

  • You really gotta wonder why anyone would try to trademark generic terms like that in the first place.

  • Kick their ass, seabass!*

    *Legally speaking of course

  • Anyone have the link to the walled-off email newsletters?

  • No wonder people don’t like lawyers with all this trifling SmallLaw nonsense.

    (Go go gadget trademark dilution!)

  • It’s good to see there are a few Jedi knights left. May the force be with you.

  • Jay

    Technolawyer seems to need better busness advisors.

  • This is awesome!

  • It’s good to see some true believers out there. Sometimes a case just needs tried!

  • Being completely serious here, how many times do I need to use “SmallLaw” in a generic way to get mentioned in an amended pleading?

    I mean, I know this sort of attention whoring is a totally SmallLaw thing to do, but I’m a pretty SmallLaw guy.

  • John Corcoran

    Now THAT’S how you respond to a take down notice!

  • Good work! Maybe now some of the behemoths will think twice about sending bogus cease-and-desist letters.

  • What a sad waste of resources.
    A cursory review of how the Peer Views folks are using the terms biglaw and smallaw, the precarious footing of their federal regisration for biglaw and their application for smallaw, and the many many many many many many uses by others that predate their claimed dates of use makes me shake my head in bewilderment.
    So you fight over terms that mean little or nothing to you and that they cannot defend. And phantom consumers are left to ask: what was that you said about secondary meaning?

  • For what it’s worth, I remember the terms BigLaw and SmallLaw (or in all caps, BIGLAW SMALLLAW) all over the Greedy Associate discussion boards at least a decade ago. I have been using the terms ever since. Though I also now like “tall building lawyers” for BIGLAW and “street lawyer” for SMALLLAW. Maybe they will try to trademark those too.