Law Firm Marketing

Law Firm Marketing

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Law Firm Marketing


There are well over a million lawyers offering their services in the United States. Naturally, many businesses turn to advertising to find potential clients. Though law firm marketing can sometimes give people seeking legal help information about any business they are thinking of contacting, more often it can be unhelpful or misleading. Being able to determine what information to take into account when hiring an attorney is a crucial part of the legal process. Here are some things to know about law firm marketing if you are seeking the services of an attorney.

Types of advertising

There are many different kinds of publicity that can be used. Until recently, law firm marketing was generally confined to print and television advertising. Print advertising generally gives such information as:

• The name and location of the firm

• A short list of their areas of practice

• Information as to whether a fee is charged for an initial consultation

Television advertising generally includes the same information. Many of these ads are designed to target people who wish to file litigation related to:

• Medical malpractice

• Asbestos-related illness

• Personal injury 

• Sexual harassment

Often, this kind of law firm marketing uses hyperbolic language to guarantee prospective clients that they can be certain of a favorable outcome to their litigation. Any such claims should not be taken at face value. When an advertisement mentions that no fee will be charged for an initial consultation, this commonly indicates that a law firm will not act on your behalf unless they are confident that any litigation proceedings will result in a settlement they can receive a percentage of.

It is now often standard law firm marketing practice to maintain a website. These can include many different pieces of information, including:

• An outline of the firm’s practice areas and track record of success 

• Biographies of the firm’s main partners or associates

• Explanations of the firm’s most-commonly-pursued strategies

• Contact information to schedule a meeting

Much of this information is an example of law firm marketing rather than legal advice that can be relied upon. Some websites do offer information that can be useful to a person seeking legal help, such as including an alimony calculator that can estimate how much a person getting divorced in a state with strict guidelines for payments can expect to pay. 

Many websites have blog components or articles written by their lawyers addressing particularly legal issues or outlining the legal process prospective clients can expect to undergo. Sometimes this information can be helpful and easier to understand than reading the actual laws of the state in question. However, you should be alert for any signs that what you are reading is law firm marketing that exaggerates the importance of retaining an attorney or seems overly insistent on the worst possible consequences of litigation.

As with any advertising, it is important to be think critically with any statements you encounter. Things to think about when encountering law firm marketing include:

• Do the statements made seem exaggerated or designed to scare me?

• Are any actual laws cited or quoted?

• Is this information detailed enough to be useful or does it seem vague?

• Is there contact information if I wish to get in touch with an attorney? 

Many websites offer standard forms to fill out with your contact information and a brief summary of your interest. If you fill this out, a lawyer may get in touch with you. While this may seem like the simplest way to find an attorney, this is a sign that you are dealing with a large and impersonal business trying to find profitable clients. Before filling out this form, you should at the very least look up the disciplinary records of any lawyers listed on the website and ensure that they have not been censured for any ethical violations.

The most aggressive law firm marketing is employed by companies who use social media applications to directly contact you and offer a consultation. Be especially cautious of any company that seems to be soliciting your business without first understanding your needs.

Firms without law firm marketing

It is often said that the most reliable businesses do not need to advertise to attract business. This is especially true when it comes to law firms. The most successful of these have been in business for a long time or have so many clients that they do not need to advertise. Instead, they can survive solely based on referrals from satisfied clients. 

The more law firm marketing seems to be attached to any business you are thinking of contacting, the more likely it is that you may be contacting people who are not necessarily trustworthy. Be especially cautious of any website that does not list the names of any of their practitioners. This commonly indicates that you are not looking at the site of a law firm but a generic website that will refer you to a business that has contracted with the maintainers of the website.

Useful law firm marketing

As a layman seeking legal representation, it is often difficult to understand your legal rights and options. Just because a website attempts to convince you to contact certain attorneys does not mean it cannot contain useful information. The most successful law firm marketing is as specific as possible about the services being offered.

If you are trying to use a law firm’s website to receive useful information, the most important thing to do is to initially ignore any statements about how successful the business is. Instead, search for detailed outlines of how the law is applied in cases such as yours. You may be able to find an article detailing the steps and federal, state and local laws that apply in your region. If you find it difficult to read legal writing, this can be helpful within limits. Ultimately, you will need to either consult a lawyer or decide how to represent yourself. However, in some cases law firm marketing can serve a greater purpose beyond advertising.

Case histories

It is not uncommon for law firm marketing on websites to include a large list of settlements successfully obtained by the company’s attorneys. This serves as proof of a firm’s success at arguing cases where financial compensation has been received. While this kind of law firm marketing is rooted in truth, it is not a meaningful indication of the company’s larger track record.

If law firm marketing lists many multi-million dollar settlements, it is important to remember that such successful verdicts are the exception rather than the rule. Rather than being swayed by a firm’s past success rate, it is important for prospective clients to consider the merits of their case and think honestly about whether the wrong that has been committed against them is on the same scale as those previously defended by a firm.

Determining a lawyer’s honesty

You would not purchase a product based solely on advertising claims. Similarly, law firm marketing can give you an idea of the kind of treatment you are likely to receive, but ultimately you must make your own decisions about who to work with. If you decide you need to find private legal counsel, ignore law firm marketing for the time being. Instead, turn to friends, family and business associates for referrals to a specialist in your field. A local or state bar association may also be able to recommend a trustworthy attorney. 

When you decide to schedule an initial consultation, it is a good idea to find as much information as possible about who you are meeting with. In addition to looking up the disciplinary of any lawyer with whom you have scheduled a meeting, spend some time researching their firm as a whole. You may be able to find more objective information on their track record or services offered.

Arrive prepared for a first meeting with as much information about the firm in general and the attorney you are meeting with in particular. During this initial consultation, if you have any concerns about aggressive law firm marketing or claims made that are too good to be true, you should express them to the attorney you are speaking with. You are entitled to ask they have any past clients who would be willing to speak to you about their past experience.

You should separate the claims made by law firm marketing from the actual meeting you have with an attorney. Present as much evidence and documentation as you have pertaining to your case and be prepared to answer any questions in detail. Be skeptical of any attorney who seems to be echoing the language of law firm marketing. You want to avoid working with a lawyer who does not offer a realistic appraisal of the strength of your case but instead promises you a successful outcome. 

Hiring a lawyer

It may be necessary to consult with several attorneys before you meet with someone whose claims seem believable. You may want to think of law firm marketing as a warning sign, and its absence as a good thing. During your first meeting, ignore any promises and instead ask detailed questions, such as:

• What level of experience do you have in handling my kind of case?

• If you cannot represent me in court, can you refer me to someone with more specialized experience in my kind of case?

• How many people can your firm direct towards handling my case?

• What kind of timeline can I expect my case to follow? 

• What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?

• What can I realistically hope to obtain from the legal process?

• If I need to speak with you, how long can I expect it to take from the time I get in touch with your firm to when you get back in contact with me?

• Who at your firm will be responsible for keeping updated about any progress made on my behalf?

When listening to the answers you are given, be alert for language which is not even-handed. A lawyer should be prepared to honestly answer your questions. In some cases, this may mean telling you that you have little chance of pursuing a successful lawsuit, or that you are likely to be convicted of a crime. Rather than giving you the answer you want to hear, an attorney should avoid speaking in law firm marketing terms and concentrate on assessing your case realistically, even if this means losing your business.

Billing practices

It is rare to find a website that tells you how much you will be charged for a lawyer’s services. Some law firms may indicate that they charge a flat fee for certain limited paperwork functions, such as:

• Preparing petitions of divorce or reviewing their legal language

• Helping prepare people who are filing for bankruptcy

• Helping people who cannot speak English well complete immigration-related paperwork

In most cases, however, law firm marketing features a conspicuous absence of any mention of what you can be expected to pay. It is therefore crucial that you establish this during your initial consultation with any attorney. You should obtain a detailed, written estimate of all the costs you can expect to be liable for, as well as an explanation of what kind of payment plan you are committing to. 

If you are filing civil litigation and have a strong case, some lawyers may agree to represent you without any advance charges. However, beware of law firm marketing which seems to promise completely free legal representation. You may still be liable for pretrial expenses such as filing papers with the appropriate court or hiring an expert witness to testify on your behalf. Be sure to establish clearly if you will be required to pay for these services or whether the law firm will advance some or all of these fees. 

 

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