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On advertising in the legal profession

As I was in the process of negotiating a personal injury settlement with a claims adjuster of a very large, well-known insurance company, the adjuster decided to tell me about how annoying he finds lawyers’ television commercials and billboards.

I sarcastically threw back a line from one of his employer’s countless television commercials and told him he’d better call Saul. To that, the adjuster arrogantly responded by telling me about his law degree and his familiarity with various rules of professional conduct on attorney advertising. (There was no mention of whether he had passed the bar exam and was licensed to practice law. I’m guessing he wasn’t or else I would’ve heard about it).

Interestingly, a few days after this conversation, I heard about the Notice to the Bar issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Attorney Advertising . The notice concerned attorney advertising of awards, honors and accolades comparing lawyer’s services, such as “Super Lawyer,” “Rising Stars,” “Best Lawyers,” “Superior Attorney,” “Leading Lawyer,” “Top-Rated Counsel.” The Committee said it reviewed numerous law firm advertisements that included badges or logos of comparative awards but did not include required additional information in a discernible manner “in proximity to the reference to the award” as required by their Rules of Professional Conduct.

The notice provided the following example for what a Super Lawyers accolade should provide: “Jane Doe was selected to the 2016 Super Lawyers list. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.superlawyers.com… No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.”

This sounds like an awful lot of restrictions on the already limiting means of advertising for our profession. I understand there are advertising rules for a few other professions but, in my opinion, none are as stringent as the ones by which we must adhere. We can’t say 15 minutes on the phone with us will win you 15 percent more from a jury than another lawyer. We can’t promise a miracle cure or say, like a car manufacturer, that we are best in class.

We are a profession that holds ourselves to a higher standard and it is important for our (potential) clients to have all the accurate information at their disposal when choosing an attorney. But what is the likelihood that someone is going to hire a lawyer based on the tiny little yellow Super Lawyers badge at the bottom of a firm website?

Fortunately, I was able to settle the matter with the adjuster. I just loved the irony of the conversation between a civil litigator and a representative of an insurance company since we’re dependent on one another.

My point is, I’m saving up to be able to afford an advertisement during the Super Bowl. Scratch that, I’ll advertise during the Puppy Bowl, brought to you by GEICO.

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