Roberta M. Gubbins, Esq.
I Write Content--You Practice Law

Draft Three / blog

Posts tagged law and advertising
Find Clients Using Niche Marketing
 Niche Market: a focused, targetable portion of a market. It is a narrowly defined group of potential customers that have specific needs. 

      A law firm that focuses on a niche is addressing a need for a service that is not being addressed by mainstream providers.
      Lawyers, like other professionals, can no longer be generalists. Because the law is too complex for you to be all things to all comers, it is necessary to select a specialized area of practice that suits you and your firm. Once that decision is made, your marketing should be selective—aimed at your niche market.
      A niche market is a defined, target market that can be classified by demographics such as age, location, gender, by socioeconomic factors or by industry or hobby. It can be as narrow or as broad as you want as long as it is well-described part of the population with the same wants, needs or behaviors.

How do I select a niche? 

      You begin by visualizing your ideal client. If you’ve been in practice for a while, think about the clients you liked working with, the ones that made you smile. Who would benefit from your legal services? What area of law are you passionate about? If you’re new to the practice of law, think of the legal specialties you liked in law school, the people you met in internships and create a description of the type of client you want to attract.
      You can narrow your field of law down to a particular type of individual, socioeconomic group or even industry. For example, if your area of practice is criminal law, you could specialize in DUI or the new marijuana laws or homicide. Or, if you like working with businesses, you narrow the field by the type of business, Internet or brick and mortar or by size such as start-ups or businesses with more than 50 employees.
      Once you narrow the niche down, search the Internet to determine the size of your market. You also need to look at the competition. How many lawyers are competing for the same clients in the same location? Don’t be discouraged, simply be aware so you can offer something the others don’t.  

Why should I Niche Market? 

      Using a narrow approach can help you focus your marketing efforts to a specific group or industry so that you become known and recognized in that group. Niche marketing is cost-effective. Rather than mass marketing to a large audience, you are concentrating your time and money on one area of the market thus saving both precious commodities—time and money. You can become an expert in that group; the go-to lawyer for their legal needs. With the use of social media, your website, blog and networking, you can become known as the industry expert whether you’re a solo or a partner in large firm.

Now We Can Advertise

Lawyers and Seltzer 
New lawyers starting a law practice in the 1800 America could advertise their business. Using mass circulars, handbills, posters, ads in the local community papers, they let the citizens know of their existence. In 1908, however, the American Bar Association (ABA) published the Canons of Professional Ethics, which abolished advertising by lawyers.

The ABA believed that lawyer advertising was unprofessional and cast a negative light on the profession. There was also the concern of encouraging frivolous cases and clogging the courts. According to the Chicago Bar Association, “The most worthy and
effective advertisement possible…is the establishment of a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust.”

Lawyers were, however, allowed to be listed in legal directories, like the SBM Member Directory, and could also print business cards and use professional letterhead. They were back to the days of face-to-face networking, building their relationships with clients one person at a time.

Bates v State Bar of Arizona

That is how things stood until 1974, when John Bates and Van O’Steen founded their practice in Arizona. They decided to focus on a large number of small cases such as uncontested divorces, adoptions or simple bankruptcy to support their practice. To get the word out, they placed an ad in the Arizona Republic on February 22, 1976.

The State Bar of Arizona suspended Bates and O’Steen for six months. The lawyers challenged the decision and eventually the matter was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled in their favor. The Supreme Court removed the ban on advertising stating that it “inhibited the free flow of information and kept the public in ignorance.”

The Court, however, did allow the State Bars to “regulate” advertising to make sure the information offered was true and didn’t mislead consumers.

The day after the Supreme Court decision in 1977, Group Matrix, an advertising agency, obtained their first legal client. In those years, they advertised for personal injury lawyers on television, radio, outdoor advertising on billboards, benches, taxis, buses and yellow pages. Over time, the yellow pages have faded away and the agency added a web service. 

How do lawyers advertise in 2016?

In many ways, advertising of legal services follows the same path it followed in the early years. We still advertise on TV, radio, billboards, taxis, buses and benches. What has changed is the addition of the Internet which gives lawyers another way to gain name recognition, impart information to prospective clients and establish their brand by creating websites and writing blog posts.

And, we are subject to the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct on advertising, which are in the section titled “Information About Legal Services.” One of the rules requires “A copy or recording of an advertisement or communication shall be kept for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when and where it was used.” {Rule: 7.2 (b)} That rule includes material on your website. Remember to give it a read.