Interview with bthesite

Attorney Barry Glazer has a beef. But you already knew that.  You’ve seen his ads on TV – stark, candid stand-ups in which he glares into the lens and calls out insurance companies in his intense Baltimore drawl. In perhaps his most infamous spot, he concludes with what may be one of the most recognizable lines in local advertising history: “Don’t urinate on my leg and tell me it’s raining.  Insurance companies, we’re going to court!” But there’s more to the Baltimore native than quirky commercials.  In an interview with bthesite.com, we talk to Barry Glazer about principles, passions, and pee.

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BTHESITE: What was life like for you growing up in Baltimore?
BARRY GLAZER: I grew up in lower Pimlico. It became pretty rough where I lived. My parents could not afford to move, so I grew up surrounded by quite a few drunks and derelicts. My best friends were their children. I was involved in multiple fights. I’ve been stabbed, had my nose broken, [been a victim of] two robbery attempts and was just generally beat up during those years. I had an unusual childhood and, while being constantly pushed by my mother to study, I was drawn to the people in the neighborhood. My mother gave me a substantial amount of freedom at an early age; however, she was totally devoted to me, and I could rely on her to do anything for me.
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BTS: How about education?
BG: I started at Eastern College as soon as I graduated from City College. Eastern College is no longer in existence, but it was a unique school that catered to lower income people or people who couldn’t get into the better colleges. I qualified on both counts. I went to Mt. Vernon Law School at night.  It merged with the University of Baltimore several years ago.
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BTS: What led you to law and, more specifically, personal injury?
BG: I was in my first year of law school and working during the day when  I was involved in a life-changing accident that left me hospitalized for two months, a pin through my leg, and in traction. My experiences trying to get through school after being out for two months, the shortage of money, and the extreme difficulty the insurance company was giving me probably inspired me to work in the personal injury field. It left me with a vendetta against insurance companies that has only grown more intense over the years.
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BTS: How’d you get on with life after something like that?
BG: In the 70s, I moved to Federal Hill. In ‘72, I purchased a bar on Cross St. called the Dew Drop Inn. There were bullet holes in the ceiling. The previous owner sold used beer. It was one room with beer and wine. I called it Jo’s Organic Bar,  got liquor and entertainment,  and worked it on and off for seven years – while practicing law. It’s now called the 8 X 10.  It is a crazy business, and I kind of got sucked into it.  There were many strange experiences as you can probably guess.
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BTS: OK.  I’ve got to ask: What’s up with the commercials? I’m intrigued by your approach. It’s a bit unorthodox compared to the stuffy fodder of other professionals in the area. What was your reasoning behind marketing yourself this way and how much of a hand do you have in the actual production?
BG: I write all the commercials and generally direct the way they are shot and edited. The intent in the marketing is to counter what I perceive as a concerted effort by insurance companies to brainwash the general public into believing that all personal injury attorneys are ambulance-chasers and all people who claim personal injury are out to make a fast buck. It’s their propaganda: insurance companies are on your side against the personal injury lawyers who are driving the premiums people pay to new heights. They not only do it through their advertising, but in more subtle ways through feeds in shows and movies that portray a stereotypical lawyer and client. I can assure you that they have been successful at this as I have personally observed the change that has taken place in juries and judges over the years.
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BTS: What’s the response been to your ads, like the “pee” spot?
BG: The response has been, generally, very good.  I get a lot of compliments and can read the faces of people who recognize me.  I have been asked for autographs and to pose with people taking pictures. I am always glad to oblige and truly enjoy being recognized in a positive way. I usually get a good vibration, but not always.  I do get some crank calls, and not everyone loves me.  If I can inspire someone to react, even if it’s negative, I believe the commercials are doing what they’re supposed to do.
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BTS: What do other lawyers think about the ads?
BG: Most lawyers who talk to me about the commercials are appreciative of the content.  I have even had compliments from insurance adjusters.
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BTS: I notice on your website that you’ve got some pretty candid rants. Does that get you into trouble? Does it affect business or the way you select and try cases?
BG: I really believe that people don’t care what my opinions are if they get good results on their cases. You might be surprised by who some of my clients are.  People expect a certain persona from me, one that can force issues and make things happen…opinionated and not afraid to express themself.  Anyway, I can’t help it.
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BTS: So, how similar are you in real life to the persona on TV?
BG:  I think, if you could go back to my first commercial and then go forward over the 15 or more years I have been advertising, you might get a pretty good idea about what I am about in real life. But you would have to see them all, not just the ones about pee.
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BTS: Let’s dig a little deeper, beyond the job and the commercials. What are your passions?
BG: I love dogs and have always been disgusted that we kill them when they are inconvenient.  Dogs have the best qualities of people and little, if any, of the miserable qualities. My partner, Gina Gargeu, and I have just opened a multi-faceted dog facility called Downtown Dog Resort and Spa, on the edge of Federal Hill (200 W. McComas St.).   It is state of the art and covers all dog services, including a swimming pool and a dog rescue component. We are set up for a vet service and are looking for a highly qualified veterinarian. We have been working on this for four years and just received our occupancy permit.
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BTS: Final question.  As a lifelong Baltimorean, what would you do to improve the city?
BG: I believe the city really needs to do more for the businesses in the area. Two obvious things that would be a great help would be to stop the panhandling in the business areas…and high traffic corners. [Panhandlers] scare people. They get a really bad first impression when confronted with [panhandling]. We need these shoppers to keep coming back to support a healthy business area. In turn, a healthy business area gives us the tax [revenue] we need to provide services to the needy. Not to mention, there’s a risk they themselves run when begging in traffic. The other obvious thing would be to provide more parking at reasonable prices. No more than two dollars an hour, any day, any time.  The city has enough disadvantages when competing with shopping centers and the counties.  Parking should not be so expensive that [city] businesses can’t compete when factoring in outrageous parking expense. Annapolis and Baltimore County have provided pretty good and reasonable parking for their businesses.   We should take a lesson from them.