Lawyer Advertising, Practice Pointers, Small Law Firms

The Practice: Standing In Line To Vote — A Lawyer Marketing Lesson

I went to vote Saturday at 7:20 a.m. I left with my “I voted” sticker at 12:39 p.m. When you stand in line for five hours, even a person like me has to pass the time by speaking to someone. After skimming through the morning paper and making a futile attempt to find something interesting on Twitter or Facebook, Jeff asked me a simple question: “What do you do?”

In the backdrop was typical polling place activity. There were signs everywhere. Many candidates had a half-dozen signs in a row at the entrance to the polling place. Apparently one sign isn’t enough anymore. The candidates were in all smiles, “asking” for votes, while the candidates’ shills designees were begging for votes by lying to everyone about everything saying they were a “mom,” or “not a politician.” People who didn’t even know the candidate were wearing their t-shirts and shoving palm cards in voters hands, and a long line of voters — some knowledgeable about the issues, and others not having a clue — were just waiting make their decision official.

It was like the internet, live.

On one side, there were people looking to make a decision, on the other, a bunch of people wanting to be “hired.” The one common thread was that the candidates wanted to make sure each person in line knew they, and their campaign, were there. The difference was how they did it….

The candidates acted differently than the people they had working for them at the polls. Candidates mostly engaged in small talk and spoke about an issue or two. They were full of handshakes and seemingly impressed with where everyone worked or went to school. The shills spent their time walking through the line, trashing the opponents and preying on the hot bed issues that scare most people. “He’s going to raise your taxes.” “She takes money from developers.” The kids with t-shirts and palm cards had nothing to say except, “Here you go.”

As Eric Turkewitz said before he was the most famous marathon running personal injury lawyer in New York, outsourcing marketing equals outsourcing ethics. The candidates themselves kept it clean and happy, but had their shills do their dirty work. When it came to the “spam” of handing out palm cards, that was for people who knew nothing about the candidate or the election.

As the line moved through the parking lot and down the sidewalk, the collection of dropped palm cards grew to the point of keeping county employees carrying trash bags pretty busy. For some reason, the shills didn’t see me as someone willing to listen, so they’d spew their garbage to a lady standing a few people down. When the shills would walk away, not noticing that this lady didn’t say one word to them in response, she wondered aloud why they she was being bothered by strangers while standing in line.

When the shills walked away, I would be my mean bullying self and ruin the whole marketing scheme by making a comment about how they were full of crap, and provide some truth to assist her decision. I spoiled everything by telling the whole story about the candidate. So the shill spent five minutes spewing garbage trying to get a vote, and I spent 20 seconds educating the voter and undoing their sales job. No palm card, no t-shirt, no fancy skewed marketing stats or smiling handshake.

I spent five hours watching this show. Watching people discard marketing collateral, watching them be fed B.S. in furtherance of assisting their decision, watching people just looking for someone to either leave them alone, or tell them the truth. Mostly they were happy to have real conversation instead of having this show of shills and palm cards in their face.

And for those of you that are too stupid to get this, I’m happy to help.

We are constantly in everyone’s face trying to get business. Someone told us that appearing on every page someone accesses on the internet will get us more wonderful high-paying clients. While it’s important to be able to be found on the internet, this notion that we have to be in everyone’s face 24/7 is one of the (many) reasons people hate lawyers. Every new toy or website comes with an article by some guru or tech hack within days telling us what it “means” for lawyers, or how “lawyers can get clients” from the new button on the social media site, or by having the new software. The marketing show seems to only be targeted to lawyers, and as lawyers, we love it. Anything that can put more money in the hands of us lawyers, right?

We believe that toys and websites always have an angle to help lawyers make money. We don’t even realize that all we are doing is figuring out how to bombard people more with our desperate desire for money. We will do anything to put more collateral in the hands of consumers, or figure out how to “build our brand” and fashion a background that doesn’t tell the whole story, but sounds good.

We don’t realize that one-on-one, honest conversation will always win.

Oh, I almost forgot. Jeff asked what I do. I told him I’m a lawyer. He told me he’s a mobile auto detailer. We started talking about people we both know. He also told me his company has had a contract with a big local auto dealership for the last 20 years.

He’ll be at my house next week.

Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at

(hidden for your protection)

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