Many lawyers feel that most of the attorney advertising in the market place damages the legal profession, and a persuasive number of studies seem to support that belief. When lawyers advertise, especially injury litigators, it seems a little classless to many because we ultimately earn some portion of our living, a large portion, because someone was hurt. But like any business, including Apple and Microsoft, Ford and Chevy, the battle for customers among law firms, especially personally injury law firms, is a serious matter. One law firm's advertising efforts have recently brought an outcry from many fellow lawyers who insist the ads only reinforce a negative image of us so many lawyers work tirelessly to change.
It's an interesting dilemma. I'm generally a pretty live-and-let-live kind of guy. Businesses as well as law firms do have the right to make their own marketing choices. It can be argued that the harm to our collective reputation as lawyers from crass advertising is probably overstated. I'm not saying there is no harm, just that it may well be overstated. Here is the biggest problem with the legal profession: We cost powerful, privileged interests a lot of money by holding them accountable for their negligence and for that our reputation will always be attacked. For. Ever. Crass advertising gives anti-lawyers some ammunition, but they have always done pretty well with or without our help.
From a purely advertising stand point, the ad sets the firm apart and is memorable. Therefore, it is probably effective - from an advertising standpoint. I mean, here we are talking about it. There is a class of potential clients who will say, "I'm calling them! They are honest enough to admit they are greedy lawyers (which I already know all lawyers are) and I like their moxy! Those guys will fight like hell to get me more $ than other lawyers might." Frankly, a lot of people who feel cheated, hurt, and exploited want a successful greedy attorney. To many those terms equate to a high level of expertise. That's what the Successful, Greedy, Attorneys ad hopes to accomplish, and it probably does. It's actually bold, imaginative and creative, even if it frustrates most of us lawyers, including me, because it concedes a fiction that we constantly try to disprove - the myth that we are without character, integrity or morality.
But the question remains, regardless of its effectiveness, does the negative impact of the ad on our profession outweigh the benefit it provides this handful of lawyers? Maybe. But can a state bar that regulates attorney conduct and legal practice prohibit it? It's doubtful, because it can be argued that nothing about the ad is dishonest or misleading. And that's a fair argument. Who could prove that these attorneys who say they are greedy, aren't? Pressure from the legal community might possibly persuade this firm to pull the daring ad, but that pressure would have to be significant.
Anyway, does the public really hate lawyers for being greedy? There is persuasive evidence that Americans don't hate us because they think we are greedy. Americans don't have a big problem with greed, whether they admit it or not. Joe Flaco, QB for Superbowl champs the Baltimore Ravens, signed a 120 million dollar contract for playing football. That's one hundred twenty million dollars! For playing football! Most Americans won't lose any sleep over this, rather, sales for his jersey will and have sky rocketed. You won't hear many people around the watercooler bemoaning Flaco, the NFL, Major League Baseball, or the NBA.
America's real problem is with dishonesty; they hate us (those that do) because they think we are dishonest. This ad works because it is saying, at this firm, at least we are honest.
Incidentally, lawyers get a bad rap. When Shakespeare wrote, "let's kill all the lawyers" in Henry The Sixth it wasn't a denouncement of the profession, rather it was really a compliment. The completely unremarkable character who uttered it, Dick the Butcher, was lobbying for social revolution and the installment of a dictator, to which lawyers represented an insurmountable obstacle. If you get rid of lawyers, he was saying, you get rid of social order. For an entertaining look at a world without lawyers watch this short video produced by Consumer Attorneys of California.