The Morality of Marketing A Law Firm.

Recently I got into a conversation (argument) with a lawyer who was complaining that 1.) He isn’t making enough money; and 2.) He feels lawyers marketing our practices is an unprofessional thing to do.

My points to him were as follows. . .

As attorneys, we have an ethical obligation to actively market our services and engage in Rainmaking activities.  Now, I am not going to try and convince you to take out an expensive ad in the telephone directory or advertise on late night television.  Those are examples of “advertising” not Professional, Ethical or even especially profitable Rainmaking.  Sure, advertising has its time and place in a proper marketing plan, but it is generally the most expensive and least effective tool available to us as attorneys, in our ethical quest to market our services to the public.

Why do we have an ethical obligation to engage in rainmaking activities you ask?  Well, take a look at your local telephone directory.  Two-to-one, what’s the largest section?  Unless things have changed a lot since I am writing this article, your answer is probably “attorneys.”  The telephone directory is chock full of attorney ads & this is a very poor reflection on us as a profession, but probably not for the reason you think.

Know, Like & Trust

In every business, in every city all over the world, people prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust.  What does it tell you that there are so many attorneys who find it beneficial to advertise in the telephone directory?  It tells me that there are an awful lot of people out there who don’t know a single attorney, or even know someone who knows a lawyer they can turn to when they have a legal problem. 

Have Some Empathy For Clients

You know, it’s not exactly fun for a potential client to sit down in front of a perfect stranger and explain to them the details of possibly the most embarrassing situation of their life.  Wouldn’t you think that client would be more comfortable and communicate more freely with a lawyer whom he or she already knows, likes and trusts?  Maybe it’s just me but I was never happy when my new clients were less than candid.  Most of the time, this was the case when they were not yet comfortable enough with me as a person.  In other words even after they signed the retainer agreement, it was nearly impossible to provide the highest quality legal services to my clients unless & until they felt like they knew me, liked me and trusted me.  So, doesn’t it just make common sense to address this point as early as possible?

I’ll save the historical argument for marketing a law firm for a more in-depth discussion in another post.  It will suffice to say here that I firmly believe that as members of the learned profession of law, we have an ethical obligation to make sure that as many people as possible already know, like and trust a lawyer when they have a need for someone to help them protect their rights.  That’s one of the reasons why I encourage you to make a commitment today to reach-out & give a prospective client the opportunity to know, like & trust a lawyer.