For more than 30 years, law firms have been legally able to advertise their services, but the jury is still out about whether it has enhanced or tarnished the profession.
However, one thing is certain, for the law firms that are advertising and marketing their services, the campaigns are paying off.
“We’re definitely seeing a return on that investment,” said Mark Beese, marketing director for Holland & Hart. “And we’re seeing some new looks to the way we’re marketing that are kind of neat.”
One of those neat new ways of marketing is legal blogs.
“It’s a wonderful tool for professionals to demonstrate his expertise,” Beese said. “Google loves blogs, so it drives traffic to the site. I think we’ll see more legal blogs in the future.”
Ross Fishman, owner of Ross Fishman Marketing, a firm that specializes in legal marketing, agrees that legal advertising has moved far beyond print, yellow pages and billboards.
“Lawyers use every marketing tool and tactic that every other businesses use — e-mails, a lot of public relations, blogs, television and radio advertisements,” he said. “They do everything you can think of — with the exception of coupons or green stamps. And lawyers are using them effectively.”
Regardless of the medium, the goal is to gain visibility and develop the firm’s reputation, Beese said. “We want people to see us in a particular way, so we brand our advertising, marketing and press releases along those lines.”
One national firm, James Sokolove, is pushing the advertising and marketing envelope into product placement. He has appeared on television show “Scrubs” and has paid to have his ads show on “The Sopranos” as Tony Soprano watches TV.
But while much of the stigma of legal advertising has disappeared, some old-guard attorneys aren’t convinced their profession is being enhanced.
Larry Gaddis, senior partner at Gaddis, Kin and Herd, said his firm is careful about what form its marketing initiatives take.
“You have to understand where the senior members of the firm come from,” he said. “When we graduated from law school and started to practice, it was unethical to advertise. There was a series of ethical opinions that included things like how large the letters could be on your office window — things designed to limit any kind of advertising.”
Because of that strict background, Gaddis said he’s not comfortable with certain forms of advertising.
“Ethically, there’s no problem, legally there’s no problem. But I’d say that, in certain quarters, advertising on television is still a stigma,” he said. “We definitely won’t advertise that way.”
Gaddis said his firm focuses on public radio sponsorships, has a small yellow pages advertisement and uses a Web site to inform clients about services.
And even if some lawyers still balk at electronic marketing, the public appears to have become comfortable with the blitz of legal advertisements.
“Lawyers don’t like TV advertising. They don’t like when other lawyers do it,” said Nancy Cohen, chief deputy regulation counsel with the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation. “But the general public doesn’t mind. I can’t remember ever getting a complaint about newspaper or radio. But television does get a few.”