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It is said about a lawyer who represents himself that he has a fool for a client. Expanding upon this line of reasoning, one can make the case that a lawyer who handles his own advertising campaign is foolish. In today’s climate of intense competition for clients, tort lawyers are increasingly turning to traditional broadcast media for advertising their services. The industry has matured since the days of debating the implications of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S 350 (1977), which legalized lawyer advertising. No longer is the conversation about whether to advertise, but rather about where, when, how and what to advertise. Turn on your television and you will see legal commercials for pharmaceutical liability cases, motor vehicle accidents, nursing home negligence and other “torts du jour.” With the ever-increasing volume of dollars being spent on advertising in the legal sector, one can only wonder if trial lawyers have the appropriate infrastructure, resources and expertise reasonably to support their investment in advertising. That is, who is determining the appropriate medium through which to advertise (television, radio, print, etc.)? Who decides to spend more on Channel A as opposed to Channel B? Who is answering the phones as they ring after a commercial runs? Are calls being tracked so that an accurate accounting can be made of the number of calls that followed a particular spot? Who is computing the cost per call on a “per spot” basis? Is this being done daily? Weekly? Ever? How soon after the initial inbound call does an attorney follow up with the caller? And how is that task tracked? A recent survey conducted by the Legal Marketing Association finds most large corporate law firms have a fairly extensive marketing focus. Forty-one percent of respondents reported that their firm has a marketing committee. On average, the survey found that participating law firms have six full-time and part-time personnel in their marketing departments. At least one-half of respondent law firms have a marketing director (64%), marketing assistant (64%), marketing coordinator (57%) and marketing manager (53%). See Executive Summary: 2001 Survey of Law Firm Marketing Budgets, Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Research Committee. Small firms often ‘wing it’ Yet small personal injury law firms, which typically have no marketing and advertising specialists on their staff, account for more dollars spent on broadcast advertising than the large corporate firms represented in the LMA survey. Approximately 85% of personal injury law firms consist of fewer than 10 lawyers. In fact, small personal injury firms that advertise typically “wing it,” according to an unnamed sales manager at a major metropolitan television station. Personal injury lawyers have yet to realize that in order to maximize their advertising return on investment effectively and efficiently, they must engage the services of professionals with whom their interests are aligned-and not rely upon the “advice” of the salesperson from whom they purchase media. Personal injury lawyers might consider seeking the advice and counsel of agencies that specialize in legal advertising and have a proven track record of understanding the legal “product” and the legal consumer. Selling legal services is not the same as selling detergent. And personal injury lawyers should keep their ads simple. Responses to broadcast advertising come from an overwhelmingly blue-collar audience, with an age range of 21 to 54 and a high school education. This population receives the vast majority of its information from television. As lawyers communicate with a pool of jurors, so too should they communicate their advertising message. With so much at stake, and so much money being spent on legal advertising, it is remarkable that the plaintiffs’ bar has yet to embrace a more strategic and concerted effort at advertising. Perhaps as the industry matures into its second quarter-century since lawyer advertising became legal, trial lawyers who choose to advertise will seek expert advice in these matters that fall outside the scope of their own expertise. Doron Levin, a licensed attorney, manages client acquisition for fellow lawyers. He can be reached at [email protected].

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