As a third-year law student at a networking lunch, I listened to an attorney half-ex plain/half-lament about how he never pictured his name and image on the side of a bus. He explained that, while his personal sensibilities did not necessarily agree with that form of legal advertising, as a business manager, he had to do whatever ethically worked. He explained coming to that rationalization through observing the success that another local firm experienced, partially as the result of a catchy jingle in a television commercial. The legal profession is a business, and in business, as in life, if one does not evolve, one dies.
While the traditional way of obtaining legal business primarily through professional referrals is anything but dead, complete reliance on that method is now rare. It is easy for one to forget that ideas that seem commonplace now, such as attorney newspaper advertisements, billboards, or radio and television commercials, were once thought to be radical or uncouth. Newer attorneys who opt to enter the market outside of the structure of firms may not have the referral base of their more seasoned competitors. To survive, these attorneys often find ways to be innovative in their attempts to secure business.
The widespread use of the Internet has led to a modernization of the referral-seeking process. In addition to traditional personal requests for referrals, attorneys use networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Super Lawyers to advertise to colleagues about their areas of expertise, skills, and experience.
Those same sites, in addition to sites like AVVO, are used as direct-to-consumer networking sites. Attorneys are able to advertise law, skills, and experience on these sites in the hopes that potential clients will view them. This form of advertising serves as an addition to an attorney’s firm website, and as a method to increase search engine optimization.
Social media—Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—can also be a great tool for an attorney to advertise directly to consumers. An attorney interested and driven enough can create a professional social media presence that may increase public knowledge and business.
Other attorneys and firms are using YouTube (either in the form of commercials or free legal information) and creating smartphone applications as forms of direct-to-consumer advertisements.
In the near future, ideas that once seemed novel may be as commonplace as commercials and billboards. The future of legal advertising will be as inventive and pioneering as attorneys can be.