Lawyer Advertising

Law firm advertising is expensive and certain methods may be cost-prohibitive for small firms. For instance, a small firm may not be able to afford a television or print campaign. Enter online marketing including, among other things, Google AdWords and sponsored links. In 2009, a law firm filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin state court challenging certain marketing strategies as an invasion of privacy, as defined in the Wisconsin privacy statute. Luckily for consumers and small firms, the court disagreed.

The case involved the two most prominent personal injury firms in Wisconsin. One of them, Cannon & Dunphy, used a Google AdWords PPC (price-per-click) strategy (and other search engines) to bid on the name of the state’s largest personal injury firm, Habush, Habush & Rottier. In other words, when a user would search the terms Habush or Rottier, a Cannon & Dunphy link would show up in the shaded section as a Sponsored Link.

Habush sued Cannon, alleging that Cannon’s online marketing campaign violated Wis. Stat. §995.50. That statute prohibits “the use, for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade, of the name . . . of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person,” and provides a cause of action where such an invasion of privacy was unreasonable.

The result of the litigation, after the jump….

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The other day, I was watching television and I saw several commercials advertising divorce firms and personal injury firms. One ad featured a scene of nursing home neglect, followed by dramatic music and terms like “BEDSORES,” flashed across the screen in all-caps. Another ad featured William Shatner asking me if I needed legal help.

Two thoughts came to mind after watching these ads: (1) what shady television shows was I watching that would cause a legal marketer to decide that I was part of the target audience for people with issues relating to BEDSORES, and (2) does anyone actually decide to seek out a lawyer based on these seemingly ridiculous ads?

So I decided to investigate television advertising as a marketing technique for small and solo practitioners. Who, if anyone, stands to benefit from using television advertising?

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Why will some lawyers just never learn that “creative” law firm websites are a bad idea? Over the years we’ve seen an odd array of crazy websites, and, while I may question the sanity of their creators, I must admit that the ever-growing collection has provided hours of entertainment.

Today’s addition, courtesy of a friendly tipster, is in a class by itself. I wouldn’t have thought that we needed a new category for “fantasy attorney websites,” but Rachel A. Runnels, Attorney at Law, has proven me wrong.

Ms. Runnels, a solo practitioner hailing from the distant mythical land of Arkansas, has decided that her professional website is the best place to let her inner dork shine. The result is a world that is far more ethereal than the one I trudge through on a daily basis. Venture with me into the world of Law and Light as we explore what Ms. Runnels’ website has to offer…

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The excessively talented David M. Anderson.

We all know that the legal market is dismal these days. People will go to almost any lengths to land jobs. A perfect résumé touting your strongest attributes is key. Most lawyers implicitly understand that this means legal attributes – you know, things that portray a sense of professional competence. But every now and then we come across a special someone who throws conventional wisdom out the window and provides us with a perfect example of what not to do.

Today’s special someone is David M. Anderson of Mahoney Anderson LLC in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. A perusal of the Mahoney Anderson website raises several questions – not the least of which are who the Mahoney in Mahoney Anderson is, where Mr. Anderson went to law school, and what Mr. Anderson might have done in his legal career prior to working for his current mysteriously-named firm.

Thankfully, we have David Anderson’s marketing ad (gavel bang: An Associate’s Mind). It is a gem. It might not answer any of these questions, or, quite frankly, tell you anything that might make you want to hire Mr. Anderson. But it is certainly the worst most unique approach to attorney advertising I have seen in quite some time….

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Before this column launched, I spent several moments stewing over possible pseudonyms. After all, branding is everything. So, I wanted to come up with a name that said to my audience that I was a small-firm expert and a super-cool chick. Naturally, I picked the name that is synonymous with post-menopausal Jewish bubbies. Perhaps I still have a thing or two to learn about branding.

I am not the only small-firm lawyer with a problem selecting the right name. Indeed, after Jay Shepherd opened my eyes to the hyphen-crisis, I began noticing a comma-crisis. Specifically, I noticed that there are a lot of small firms with way too many last names strung together with commas.

Why is it that many small firms have such problems coming up with the perfect firm name? Let’s explore this age-old question….

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A few weeks ago, I was riding in a cab on the way to the airport. Right off the highway was a large sign for Le Massage Plac (the light for the “e” had died). I insisted that the cab driver make a pit stop. I needed to get le massage from Le Massage Plac[e], even if the dingy surroundings would give me le staph infection and require me to go le emergency room.

Yesterday I was walking through downtown Chicago and I was nearly run over by a food truck captioned The Meatyballs Mobile. I ran after the Meatyballs for several blocks. I just had to have a “Shweddy Balls” sub sandwich.

These experiences taught me firsthand the power of branding. What does this have to do with small law firms?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

They say that to be competitive in today’s market, branding is key. To do that, one needs a snappy marketing campaign. I mean, think about the marketing genius behind the Shake Weight, or that truly awesome FreeCreditReport.com song!

According to an article in the Martindale.com Blog entitled Small Law Firms Take the Lead in Marketing, small firms have, well, taken the lead in marketing. Martindale-Hubbell commissioned a survey to look into the issue of small-firm marketing and concluded that the smallest firms are increasing their spending on marketing, with a focus on internet advertising.

Given this premise, I decided to search the worldwide web for some of the best (or most entertaining) small-firm websites. I found one website that stuck out to me: the home page of a boutique law firm, Edelson McGuire. (ATL previously covered the firm when it gave out free iPads to all employees, both attorneys and staff.)

How do I love the Edelson McGuire site? Let me count the ways….

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Consider the evidence, from the website of Cravath. We’re guessing this change was made a while ago, perhaps when Cravath overhauled its home page last June, but we didn’t notice it until a Cravath alum pointed it out to us just now.

Let’s take a look….

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Geoffrey Fieger

In the past, Above the Law has kindly taken the time to mock provide constructive feedback to firms that choose to take more unconventional approaches to their attorney website photos. Among our favorites have been the “body shots” of Ballard Spahr and Cox Smith.

Today’s installment of bad lawyer photography comes courtesy of a tipster who brought the website of Fieger Law to our attention. Fieger Law is headed up by none other than Geoffrey Fieger, who gained notoriety by repeatedly winning acquittals for Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death, and by obtaining a $25 million verdict in the Jenny Jones case.

But life at Fieger Law isn’t all about trying serious cases. These lawyers have fun while loving the law!

In what I can only guess is an attempt at creativity, Fieger’s website photographer has abandoned all lessons learned in Photo Composition 101 in favor of a more… artistic approach. The result is a collection of lawyers peeking around edges of photos, missing foreheads, and appearing to fall out of frames.

But the fun photography doesn’t end with the off-kilter headshots. Check out some stellar action shots, after the jump….

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Have you no sense of decency, sir? Have you left no sense of decency, Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern?

The law firm that “specializes” in World Trade Center aftermath issues has already drawn the ire of the judicial system. The firm represents workers injured in the WTC cleanup, and a federal judge previously benchslapped them for seeking excessive legal fees.

You’d think Worby Groner would try to keep a low profile after that. But the firm’s latest advertising campaign is just tasteless….

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