By Virtue of a Supreme Court Case in 1976 Lawyers Were Given the Green Light to Advertise. But Should We?
This article explores what attorneys are doing in the way of advertising compared to other "professions" and discusses the merits and demerits of lawyer advertising.
In the current local issue of the DEX yellow pages, a solo lawyer has taken the entire outside back page, in slick color modules, to let the public know that he does auto accident injury cases. Inside there is the most startling array of pictures of lawyers of all kind, smiling happily while they advertise their wares. Presumably, we want the public to take us seriously. After all, we are an arm of the justice system and an instrumentality of the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon.
Looking closer, the attorney ads are followed by auto-dealers yellow pages and are strikingly similar in format, color layout and evocation. However, even used car dealers have the good sense and class not to put their mugs squarely before the public in soliciting business. It is really hard to imagine how one's picture is supposed to convey to the public that one is a qualified lawyer by how one looks. Some of the best lawyers in the land are hardly movie star candidates. Why even one solo lawyer that I know has the picture of someone else (that I suppose is a 'representative' lawyer-picture?) in his yellow page advertisement. Here is what is really going on -- we are being duped by the yellow page marketing departments.
Yellow pages sales people are taking lawyers for a ride. First, they have identified so many multiple categories that a general practitioner is caught in the horns of a dilemma--do they list every possible alternative or leave well enough in the 'general practice' section. There is a category for 'accidents', another for 'personal injury', another for 'insurance law', another for ' trial practice-personal injury' and finally a 'wrongful death' category. If you handle auto accident cases the public might not find you in a single bite, but are five classifications necessary? That sort of ad classification would require a residential architect to list under 'roofs', 'foundations', etc., etc. Second, they dupe young, new practitioners into expensive ads showing their latest dental work in huge surroundings along with tawdry reasons why the public should dial their telephone number. These ads alone have caused lawyers to seek help from their brethern bankruptcy lawyers which they can easily find in these yellow pages. Why there is Kent V. Snyder smiling at them right now on page 103.
Now let us turn to what other "professions" are doing. Attorney yellow page ads cover fifty (50) pages in the local regional yellow page book. Architects and accountants have no pictures of themselves in their yellow pages and cover two (2) pages each in the local regional yellow page book. The marketing arms of DEX and Yellow pages have our number. Accountants and architects must be a little brighter and are probably taking home more in their pocketbooks. For sure they have more respect from the public.
Our profession, the practice of law, is one I am proud of until I turn to these yellow pages. How can we obtain public respect with this sort of tabloid advertising with miles of smiles? The solution is to turn off this marketing spigot and rely on our own merits for business. If we are any good, we won't need this sort of advertising to obtain the business which we seek. If we aren't that good then we should do other things. The public would respect us for that.