Boston Legal is more than a TV show, it’s also home to a couple of law firms making ripples – no, make that waves – in the legal advertising arena. Foley Hoag has introduced some ‘safe’ advertisements via Madison Avenue. And Bingham McCutchen has been doing some fun things too. What’s happening here?

Boston Legal is more than a TV show, it's also home to a couple of law firms making ripples - no, make that waves - in the legal advertising arena. Foley Hoag has introduced some 'safe' advertisements via Madison Avenue. And Bingham McCutchen has been doing some fun things too. What's happening here? 2

Most corporate law firms have an uneasy relationship with Madison Avenue. Lawyers who are purists tend to argue that clients should be won the old-fashioned way, through networking and superior legal work, while others acknowledge the potential value of advertising, if only to increase name recognition.

Foley Hoag, a traditional firm in Boston, is navigating a middle course. Although it is introducing a campaign this week, the advertisements will run only in print and on the Web, rely on stock art, and appear only in places where business executives are likely to see them.

The photos will be familiar to some people. One ad – with the tag line “Innovate and Accelerate” – features a man wearing a set of paper wings, vintage aviator goggles and a white scarf, jumping off a chair in a Gothic-style auditorium, as if in flight. The photo, shot in Woolsey Hall at Yale University, appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine’s “Year in Ideas” issue in December 2003.

Robert Sanoff, Foley Hoag’s co-managing partner, said he was not concerned that the photos had had a previous public life. “I don’t think these were images that were iconic in the past,” he said.

In a prior Foley Hoag campaign, the images were of the firm’s conference room and office building. This time, such an approach was deemed too boring.

The old ads “felt safe and comfortable for lawyers and transmitted what lawyers wanted to project, which was that these people were fine lawyers and worked at the highest levels of their profession,” Sanoff said. But the ads said nothing about the firm’s culture.

“We’ve handled cutting-edge and challenging matters,” he said. “We have a reputation for doing things differently and being able to find solutions where other people can’t, and I think we wanted an advertising program that really somehow reflected those values.”

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