LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – Law Firm Marketing – The National Law Journal reports – In the early days of attorney advertising, law firms created ads to demonstrate their unparalleled integrity and resourcefulness. Some three decades later, law firms are creating ads to demonstrate their unparalleled integrity and resourcefulness.
Although firms themselves have undergone profound changes since the U.S. Supreme Court decided 30 years ago this month that even lawyers were entitled to free speech, the profession’s advertising manner and message — especially among the larger firms — have evolved very little in those 30 years, according to many industry observers.
Some of the sameness is due to ethics rules, aimed to protect the public, that rein in unfounded claims and hyperbole. But most of the advertising vanilla, say observers, comes from risk aversion and a fear of flash that persist among law firm decision-makers.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Micah Buchdahl, an attorney and president of HTMLawyers, a law firm marketing company based in Moorestown, N.J. “The law firm marketing world is still not very sophisticated.”
In June 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Bates v. Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, that disciplinary rules imposed by the State Bar of Arizona prohibiting lawyers from advertising violated free speech rights. In 1974, attorneys John Bates and Van O’Steen bought an ad in a local newspaper, in violation of the rule, for their law firm that provided services to low- and moderate-income clients who did not qualify for legal aid.
In a 5-4 decision with Justice Harry A. Blackmun delivering the opinion, the Court reasoned that such commercial speech deserved protection because of the information it conveyed to consumers. The Court also concluded that allowing attorneys to advertise would not harm the legal profession or the administration of justice.