Lawyers have been allowed to advertise since 1977, when two attorneys, John Bates and Van O’Steen, published their prices for their services. While they were disbarred for their act, they took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. While there are still attorneys who believe lawyer advertising is undignified, most lawyers see it as a necessity, especially when their competitors are reaching out to potential clients.
Over the last four decades, their marketing practices have changed significantly. At first, lawyers targeted everyone with billboard, television and Yellow Page ads, hoping that someone who needed their services would see the ad and respond. While most people are familiar with daytime TV commercials with personal injury lawyers asking people is they were in an accident which occurred due to someone else’s negligence. They were targeting an audience who would normally be at work but were home because they were injured. This was probably the first example of ads intended to reach a specific audience.
With the rise of the Internet in the 90s, everything changed. Law firms learned they could easily target their desired audience. This forced law firms to think about who they wanted to reach and the best way to do so now that they had more options. By the late 1990s, most law firms had a website as an inbound marketing tool. At first, the site’s had URLs with the firm’s name before marketers suggested using their specialty and practice area instead of their name, such as Personal Injury lawyers Anytown. Next, they began using paid display advertising and pay-per-click options.
Since most lawyers didn’t study marketing in college, they turned to marketing firms or hired a marketing staff to help them find the best ways to reach their target audience. The non-profit Legal Marketing Association offers a forum for persons marketing law firms. Lawyers and marketing professionals can exchange ideas about a variety of topics including, using social media to attract clients and retaining previous clients.
Lawyers can spend their marketing budget wisely by:
- Learning Local Search Engine Optimization – Lawyers can rank well in search results when they optimize their sites for local searches
- Ensuring the Firm’s Website is Mobile-Friendly – Lawyers can lose up to have of their leads if people using mobile devices cannot see the site clearly
Once a lawyer optimizes their website, they can count on receiving more free leads from search engines.
Lawyers should follow rules The American Bar Association publishes regarding advertising. They explain different state rules and suggest lawyers refrain from using images in their advertising except for the scales of justice and photos of the firm’s attorneys. The ABA has excellent suggestions for lawyers who want their advertising to reflect the dignified nature of their field.