Advertising In the Legal World

There is a constant back-and-forth between whether or not law firms and lawyers should advertise.  From ethical questions raised to questions of attorney-client relationships and public trust in the system of justice, attorneys must tread carefully through the realm of advertising possibilities.  However, when done correctly, advertising can take a firm or lawyer to an entirely new competitive level of success.  There are three times as many lawyers today as there were in 1970.  Somehow lawyers need to differentiate themselves.

Up until as recently as 1970s, lawyers were prohibited from advertising. In 1977 the U.S. Supreme Court in Bates v. Arizona ruled that disciplinary rules prohibiting lawyers from advertising violated free speech rights.  Commercial speech deserved protection because of the information it conveyed to consumers, and was concluded to not harm the legal profession. In 2002, the American Bar Association adapted its Rule for Professional Conduct to the Information Age, allowing lawyers to advertise their services “through written, recorded or electronic communication.”

The largest law firms across the country have always seemed to rely upon their long history, prestige and strong name recognition, which works to a point.  With this history, comes a presumption of quality and a high price tag. Smaller, newer firms are fighting into the market, and via advertising are building trust and new business.   These younger, more aggressive firms, though initially lacking the name recognition of the same magnitude of larger firms, are generally perceived as more in touch with the times and more responsive to clients.  In a world where word-of-mouth marketing is increasingly important, a good client perception can build your business markedly.

Advertising today across multiple media is essentially equivalent to handing out your business card but has a far wider audience reach. Mailers can act as referral sources and advertising on the radio, Internet and in print can build brand identity in a way that a simple a Web site and yellow page listing cannot.  On television, selecting the right programs during which to run your ads can reach target markets and clients. Your firm can sponsor events, seminars or community activities to build client perception.

In a profession typically associated with low risk, it can be hard to overlook the lack of immediate results with advertising. Results take time.  But with patience and a little risk, advertising can make your firm stand out, build trust and garner great clients.  With the over one-million lawyers in the United States, how does a client find you?

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Categories: Legal Marketing

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