As Law Firms Re-Brand, Ampersands Fill Junkyards

WORCESTER, Mass.  Dominic de Fillipo has been in the scrap metal business in this gritty central Massachusetts city for nearly three decades, but he’s recently dropped his “I’ve seen it all” mantra in favor of a more nuanced attitude.  “I’m detecting a tectonic shift in world junk markets,” he says as he puts down a well-worn copy of 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.  “I’m not sure even the Chinese will take this crap.”

With a sweep of his hand, de Fillipo indicates several small mountains of metal formed out of nothing but ampersands, the typographic character that stands for the word “and,” which is traditionally used to separate the names of partners in law firms.  “The whole re-branding thing was a boon to guys like me for awhile, we could name our price for them curly-cues,” he says.  “Now, I’m not sure I’d take ’em for free ‘cuz I got no place to put the stuff.”

Gaston & Snow & Tyler & Reynolds

The cause of the glut of ampersands that has de Fillipo and others like him creating piles that sometimes reach 60 feet high is the abandonment by law firms of the ampersand in favor of a more streamlined look to signage, letterhead and business cards.  “Even a lawyer will realize after a while that ‘Filpot & Markham, Adrian, Toritelli & Swanson’ doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue,” says Maria Vonicetti, a “branding” consultant to professional service firms.  “If you become just ‘FILPOT LLP’ you may hurt some partners’ feelings, but at least prospective clients won’t need a Heimlich maneuver to get your name right.”

“Maybe we could melt ’em down for hot water heaters.”


At first metal signs accounted for the bulk of ampersand waste, but discarded paper products are beginning to catch up at landfills outside metropolitan regions.  “Say you get Suzie Q. Consultant to come in and redo your business cards in decorator colors,” says Gary Hamtrimcz of Tri-State Scrap & Salvage, who recently added a used ampersand to his company’s name.  “That means you got about nine thousand of the old black and white cards that go right into the little blue recycling bins under the lawyers’ desks, then straight into the dumpster.  They’re worse than disposable diapers.”

For his part, de Fillipo says he will “roll with the punches” if it turns out he’s bought too many of the squiggly symbols and has to store them for a while until the market comes back.  “These things run in cycles,” he says, nodding his head philosophically.  “I got tons of neckties in that shed from when casual day came in around 1998,” he says, pointing to a corrugated metal building.  “The price per bale is going up now that the old farts have adopted the style, because the young fashion plates don’t want to look like ’em.”


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