In the early 1900s, lawyer advertising was subject to a nationwide ban due to concerns over the impact of advertising on the legal profession. This changed in 1972 with the Supreme Court decision in Bates v. Arizona. The Bates court concluded that lawyer advertising is classified as commercial free speech, and is thus protected under the First Amendment.
After Bates, state bars began lifting the ban on lawyer advertising. They were, however still free to regulate legal advertising to ensure that it is not “false or misleading.”
Today there are several different forms of lawyer advertising that are allowed, such as:
- Print: These include phone book ads, newspaper ads, and billboard ads
- Media Ads: Popular examples include radio ads and television program ads
- Online Advertising: Attorney web marketing can include online legal directories, pay-per click ads, and attorney-client matching services
Online advertising is the newest type of attorney advertising. Many lawyers today are eschewing more traditional forms of advertising in favor of online marketing methods.
Lawyer Advertising and Returns on Investment
The main consideration with any ad campaign is what is known as Return on Investment (ROI). This refers to the income that a specific ad generates for the practice in comparison to the cost of the ad. Another important aspect of lawyer advertisement is conversion rates. This means going beyond a mere phone call to actually having the client hire you.
A common complaint about most print ads like phone book ads is that they “only pay for themselves”, and don’t really create extra income, since they don’t always lead to case conversions. Some lawyers are finding that print ads have been yielding lower returns in the past years. Reasons for this may include the high costs of placing an ad, and the attorney’s inability to pre-screen clients before calling.
One way to increase client conversion rates is to utilize an attorney-client matching service like LegalMatch. Attorney-client matching goes a step beyond advertising, as the client can review attorneys to ensure that they’re making the right selection for their specific legal issue. Likewise, attorneys can pre-screen case postings and choose only those that are relevant to their practice. These factors increase the likelihood that an actual attorney-client relationship is formed.