Corporate lawyers are appearing in ads for top-drawer firms in the San Francisco area as more firms focus on their attorneys to promote themselves. Are they effective?

Much of the general public’s experience with law firm advertising stems from TV and phone book ads for personal injury, workers’ compensation and immigration attorneys.

But what Bay Area corporate firms are doing involves slick brochures that are delivered to clients or potential clients. Or, the pieces appear in legal newspapers and magazines that circulate among business executives or general counsels at various businesses.

The pieces can cost several thousands of dollars, but the cost is well worth it, the firms say.

“The law firm market is very competitive. The more we can do to distinguish ourselves and set aside our people” the better, said Phyllis Gillis, a spokesperson for Farella Braun & Martell LLP of San Francisco, who turned to Tolleson Design of San Francisco for help with the campaign.

Farella’s pieces use black and white portrait photos of attorneys combined with their phone number and email and a summary of their experience.

But are the pieces effective?

“You can very rarely link an ad directly to a piece of business. You can certainly build awareness with clients,” said Marina Park, managing partner at San Francisco-based Pillsbury Winthrop LLP. The firm, with the help of design firm Greenfield Belser Ltd. of Washington, D.C., has published an annual report that has eye-grabbing shots of attorneys who work for a particular large client, including Bombardier Inc. and ChevronTexaco Corp.