Professionals in any field of endeavor need a method of drumming up new business. Back in the day, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians and other such professionals took care of families as a matter of routine. If a family’s kids got married and moved out, the professional handled their needs.
Word of mouth was the main method of advertising for these professionals, due to legal rules and regulations preventing them from advertising their services. Times have changed, however. Today, what we see frequently is TV advertisements, which isn’t such a bad thing.
Alternatively, when it comes to lawyers who advertise, no one has to make it seen negative. They do it themselves.
The old days of the general practitioner have gone the way of cars without seat belts and kitchens with no microwave ovens. It seems for every profession, there are specializations. We see this most often in the medical and legal fields. The problem with specializations is that as the medical and legal fields advance, the general public learns slowly of these advancements. For example, let’s say a guy undergoes surgery for a back injury. He’s out of work for so long that his job is filled by a new employee. The guy’s insurance runs out, he doesn’t qualify for disability, he can’t pay his mortgage and loses his house. In these days of specializations, this poor fellow will need three separate lawyers to handle his problems. How will he find these attorneys? Back in the day, he would have searched the Yellow Pages, found one he had heard something about and made a decision.
Evolution of Attorney Advertising
Advertising has always been about awareness. In ancient times, advertising meant a picture of what the business produced on a shingle hung outside the business. A shoe maker of course had a picture of a shoe on his shingle, while a printer might have a pen and inkwell on his sign board. You would have searched for a doctor by seeing a stethoscope engraved on a sign board outside his office. Times changed with the printing press, though, and newspapers printed what they called broadsides to announce special events or advertisements. Folks came into town on Saturdays to do their marketing, found a paper and caught up on the doings in the territory.
The advent of radio and TV brought a new awareness which meant a new kind of advertising. Companies bought air time to advertise their wares. If parents didn’t want their children seeing ads for feminine personal care items, they were simply sent out of the room. If cigarette commercials offended people, they got up, crossed the living room and turned the channel. Offensive material wasn’t really a consideration due to the strictest of oversight from not only Hollywood but the government as well.
How Attorney Advertising All Began
An Arizona attorney wishing to charge his clients lower rates thought that if his clientele was larger, lower rates would be a reality. A small ad in the local paper sought to manifest that reality. The Arizona State Bar, however, was not impressed with John Bates’ and his partner’s attempt to advertise. The Arizona Supreme Court, however, considered Mr. Bates’ citation of the Sherman Antitrust Act as well as the First Amendment with regard to the constitutionality of advertising. His and his partner’s suspension of their licenses to practice was reduced.
A Virginia lawyer’s case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. This court held that the attorney was exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act due to the fact that the attorneys provided a service. Free speech, however, was now the topic of the day. Each state loosened its laws regarding legal advertising. However, several cases came to the attention of said Supreme Court through depictions of products, pictures and unfair statements. Each state, therefore, found itself dictating what could and could not be said in an advertisement for lawyers.
Today’s Lawyer Advertising
Pretty much every TV advertisement is for personal injury attorneys. The best looking and well-dressed of the bunch is plopped in front of a camera with claims of getting you the most money from your case. You don’t have to pay until we recover your money, they say. Just give us a call, they say. Some have formulated clever slogans that stick in people’s heads, whether they want them there or not. Some advertisements feature a slough of people who ostensibly have been injured and received massive returns from their case. They are not as good looking as the lawyer.
Lawyers went to school for years in order to have the privilege of standing in front of a judge to argue a case. Their education never ends, for they must read up on every case and the attendant case law that comes down the pike. Their subscriptions to legal magazines never run out. These dedicated individuals would no more consider stepping in front of a camera than they would of perpetrating a crime. The evolution from a simple newspaper advertisement to the full-scale minstrel show of some lawyers’ TV ads has changed public opinion of attorneys. Most have returned to searching the Yellow Pages, albeit online, for the proper legal advisor. Many wouldn’t have anything to do with lawyers unless they desperately needed one due to the impression left on them by the circus on TV. Unfortunately, it’s those very dedicated professionals who suffer the most from the shenanigans of lawyers advertising on TV.
All we can say to the public is to go back to the Yellow Pages. Good people are out there, dedicated and valiant lawyers out there to fight for you and your rights. We’re one of them. Our specializations are family law, divorce, criminal and yes, personal injury. Please contact us when you need help, for we don’t like cameras much.
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