We first wrote about Atlanta’s Antavius Weems in “The Child Advocate,” an article in the 2005 issue of Georgia Rising Stars magazine. Weems, a former Assistant City Solicitor and County Child Advocate, now a civil litigation and family law attorney with his own practice, has lately been garnering attention on the reality show “Toni Braxton’s Family Values,” portraying himself, Antavius Weems, lawyer to Toni Braxton and her family.
In the following three-part interview, Mr. Weems talks about what it’s like to play yourself on reality TV; his concerns about protecting both himself and his client from the salaciousness of reality TV; and the reaction of the Georgia legal community.
Let’s talk about this gray area between being on your client’s reality show, as her lawyer, but, as her lawyer, protecting her at the same time. Were there things you didn’t talk about as the cameras were rolling that you would normally talk about?
Yes. As lawyers, we are always mindful of 1) protecting the client, and 2) protecting your brand. It’s difficult doing that as a reality personality because reality TV is about salaciousness. It’s about the best soundbite.
So when you have a client that comes in and says, “I want my sister and my auntie and my grandmother to sit in the meeting with me,” and you say, “OK, that’s fine,” then they say, “Oh, and I want these cameras in here, too,” that’s when it becomes a little sticky. So the chord I struck is, “OK. The cameras can come in. But on a scale of 1 to 10–10 being a real conversation with a lawyer–you’ll probably get a 3. My client has the authority to waive confidentiality and other privileges, but it’s still incumbent upon me as a lawyer to make sure that what I’m saying in front of the camera, even to my client who might be waiving that privilege, is not going to come back and bite me or my client in the butt.
The finale was taped at my office, around me, Towanda and Trina and Tamar talking about Tawanda’s impending separation from her husband-where I represent her. It became very heated in the room and most of the time you saw me sitting there, listening, “Uh huh, uh huh,” and every now and then I’d interject a question. That was on purpose. Partly because I want to do more listening than talking. But also because when you’re in a traditional lawyer-client meeting, the questions that you ask, that I ask, are strategy based. How is it that I’m going to present this case to a jury or judge that’s going to get the best possible result for my client? And I certainly don’t want my strategy put out before a national television audience.
Next Monday: Reaction from the legal community