A traditional view of the legal profession holds that lawyers are members of an elite class, well placed in society. As such, many believed that lawyers were not permitted the more crass forms of self-aggrandizement, among which is advertising.
The history of legal advertising rules
In 1908, the Canons of Professional Ethics were published by the American Bar Association. These standards of practice reflected the ABA’s view that lawyer advertising was unprofessional and put the practice of law in a negative light. In addition, the organization worried that it might bring more unsupported and spurious cases into the courts. Lawyers could be included in law directories, print business cards and use professional letterhead, but conventional advertising was strictly prohibited.
In practice, that traditional perception among lawyers still limits the outreach that an independent law practice has for finding clients, especially when the practice is just starting and reputations are not well established.
In more recent years, a series of civil actions in the courts have forced the rules to relax considerably. Expensive advertising, especially by large tort law firms, has become widespread. The advertising does give the impression of dignified attempts to educate the public or inform people of ongoing class actions, but they are advertising nonetheless.
Outbound advertising is an expensive option in any case, and it is not always the most effective for smaller law firms. To establish your brand and presence in the marketplace as a solo lawyer, consider these other options:
You can use the reach of the Internet to market an independent law practice and establish your reputation.
- Make a business website for your practice
- Create a novel and recognizable logo
- On the website, include some interesting blogs and informative material that includes plenty of added value, information about the law and useful hints
- Include “calls to action” on the website: places where people can register for more information or can make an appointment
- In addition, get active on legal blogs, discussion sites and social media
- Contribute your expertise to discussion sites to build credibility, and include links to your website in your contribution
More traditional marketing methods
- Contribute informative articles to local publications along with links to your website and contact information
- Secure a guest column in a local publication, such as a business newspaper or magazine
- Appear on radio as a guest expert
- Develop a contact list and send regular informative newsletters on topics of public interest
- Get involved in local interest groups to build a reputation and make contacts with local leaders and business owners
- Make yourself a fixture at law organization events to make contacts that could be sources of referrals
- Always thank those who referred clients to you and try to return the favor
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