Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lawyer Advertising

For good or bad, websites, search engines, and Googlebot are facts of advertising life. If we want to be seen - if we want to get phone calls - we must understand how the system works and use it to our advantage. Face it, most lawyers need to advertise if they want to be in the hunt for business. People must find us if we are to get the calls. An adage in bicycle racing is "train your weaknesses, but race your strengths." If you're a former DA, there's nothing wrong with touting that fact to remain competitive in the marketplace. If you have experience setting you apart from the competition, I have no problem with you using it to generate calls.

However, we know it's a competitive world and not all lawyer advertising will be scrupulous. Shawn Matlock observed:
One of the most common situations I encounter with potential new clients is the statement "Another lawyer said he can get my case dismissed." I hear it so often, I can almost predict it during the interview with the precision of Babe Ruth calling his shot. There are any number of things wrong with this statement. First and foremost, any attorney that tells you what the outcome of your case is going to be during the initial interview is lying to you. It's that simple.
Scott Greenfield posted here:
We write about how we want to empower the consumer of legal services to make sound choices in retaining a lawyer, and how more information (regardless of quality or deceptive nature) adds to the body of knowledge available to the consumer. What a load of crap. Information is fine, but only if it is honest, legitimate and meaningful. Information that is crafted for the purpose of playing consumers is wrong, and demeans the profession.
I could not agree more. But we cannot ignore the fact that clients are ultimately responsible for their own buying decisions. Maybe I am being presumptuous. But when I shop for a new car I take it to my trusted mechanic and test ride the car. When I'm looking for a dentist I ask people who have seen the dentist's work and inquire about the quality. When I'm looking for a lawyer I must do my homework, too. If I buy a lemon because I did not do my homework, it's ultimately my fault.

Mark Bennett posts here and suggests conscientious lawyers can teach potential clients what they want:
The accused are like most other people: some of them want to be lied to, some of them want the unvarnished truth, but most don't know what they want. They are, however, educable . . . We conscientious lawyers who believe in telling clients the truth can teach our potential clients how to choose a lawyer, and what to look for -- in other words, we can teach them what they want.
First, are we really teaching clients what they want? I think most reasonable people already know what they want. Mark is right that some people want to be lied to. But most people just want someone who cares more about them than the money. Most people just want a lawyer who will empathize with them and work hard to get the best results possible under the circumstances. Thankfully, even marginally sophisticated clients understand lawyers practice law to make a living. But if we can successfully place ourselves in the shoes of the potential client, demonstrating both confidence and competence, we have a better chance of persuading them we are a good choice among several other good choices. If we can't do that, we are in the wrong line of work anyway.

Finally, Gideon notes:
It’s a delicate balance you have to achieve in choosing an attorney. First, who can you afford? Second, of those you can afford, which one is best for you . . . Setting the right fee is important too. Clients may be stupid, but they’re not stupid.
We also must allow the free enterprise system to work its magic and weed out the schmoes. I've seen it work in Brazos County - cut rate lawyers coming into town promising the moon. Over time they fold because (if I can borrow a phrase from Mark Bennett) "They're writing checks in their marketing that they can't cash in the courtroom." But I think it is even more basic than that. We all cannot be "successful" in the courtroom all the time. But we can be caring and empathetic all the time. That is the service which stands the test of time. The quality of our service is what brings people in and keeps them coming back.

But life is not fair either. The schmoes really don't care. Sometimes the schmoes get the business. It's a hard pill to swallow that others must suffer because of unscrupulous behavior. Conscientious lawyers just can't dwell on that inequity. If a client gets screwed by some fly-by-night, hopefully the word gets out and the free enterprise system will work its magic. If not, we can find comfort in in Romans 12:19: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

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