HISTORY OF LEGAL MARKETING
Legal marketing has seen many milestones over the years. Beginning with Abraham Lincoln in early American history to the full fledged marketing campaigns of today, the evolution of legal marketing has made it possible for lawyers to grow their firms in ways never before thought possible.
The pivotal moment in history was 1974, when John Bates and Van O’Steen found themselves faced with a dilemma: violate ethics laws to advertise their services and fees, or watch their legal clinic for low-income individuals wither away due to a lack of clientele. In an effort to save their firm, Bates and O’Steen opted to do the unthinkable and placed an ad in a local Phoenix, Arizona newspaper. Although their actions drew in scores of new clients, they also drew the ire of the President of the State Bar of Arizona, who quickly filed a complaint in response to their decision to advertise. A hearing panel recommended a six month suspension, which was later reduced to censure after a series of appeals. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court and was ultimately overturned on the grounds that truthful advertisement of the availability and terms of routine legal services was protected under the First and Fourth Amendments. Ultimately, Bates vs. State Bar of Arizona opened the door for legal marketing by declaring unconstitutional the strict ethical rules that had previously constrained attorneys.
In the wake of this landmark ruling, a burst of consumer-oriented legal advertising ensued, with personal injury lawyers grabbing the reins. Advertisements depicted attorneys standing in front of bookshelves adorned with volumes of legal texts, or sitting casually on the edge of a mahogany desk with the scales of justice placed prominently in the background. Toll-free numbers were gobbled up, and the trusty Yellow Pages became instrumental to the success of consumer practices. However, it was not until the end of the 1970s that the first inklings of actual legal marketing began to emerge in the form of billboards, television commercials, bus signs, and newspaper advertisements.
Just as the wheels were starting to spin on the fledgling legal marketing machine, The American Lawyer published salary information of big-firm lawyers, which sent lawyers scrambling for employment at mega firms and subsequently increased competition both within and among firms. This increased competition brought with it the need for firms to gain advantage over each other and find novel ways to connect with potential clients. Marketing-mania slowly began to trickle-down through the industry into smaller firms, and strategies improved considerably as the daring and creative thinking of marketing experts began to deploy new tactics in the fight to promote their firms.
As the Internet-era boomed in the mid-1990s, online marketing offered more creative and far-reaching opportunities for law firms to promote their services. By the end of the 90s most law firms had developed their own websites. And within the next ten years some savvy firms began turning their advertising dollars to the internet to gain competitive advantage. Today, law firms now use a versatile array of online and traditional marketing mediums that includes everything from direct mail, television, pay per click advertising, social media engagement and mobile advertising to name just a few.
The days of putting an ad in the yellow pages and sitting back and waiting for all the calls to start coming in have passed us by. Today firms are required to have a sophisticated arsenal at their disposal and be ready to change it up on a moment’s notice to remain competitive. No longer can an attorney rely on just their reputation as a great attorney to be the front line in his/her marketing efforts.
That's why our clients have been relying on RW Lynch's total marketing solution. With RW Lynch, our clients get a full arsenal of marketing tools and cutting edge technology to stay ahead of the competition without the legal marketing worry.