Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Law Firm Advertising

by Dick Mac

I have worked in law firms for almost thirty years. During that time law firms began advertising and sponsoring public event and institutions. The former has been tacky, at best, and the latter has actually been somewhat beneficial for all involved.

Prior to this, it was long held that law firms shouldn't advertise. It seems some people think that advertising would jeopardize the integrity and prudence of the industry.

If I was a lawyer who cared about the reputation of my industry, I would side with the people who say that law firms shouldn't advertise.

Law firm advertising stands alongside weight-loss programs, household tools to replace buttons and remove stains, and fitness equipment in the advertising arena. Law firm advertisements are shown late at night, when larger, more reputable industries cannot be bothered to advertise. There's your nationwide litigation firm asking if you've been injured or suffered at the hands of a professional who is not a lawyer, promising you boatloads of money and alternately showing heart-tugging photos of sad scenarios and photos of middle-aged, well-dressed white men presented as your knight in shining armor.

No, there is nothing sophisticated about law firm advertising, it's pretty cheesy.

Critics of law firm advertising both in the legal industry and outside it, also fear that lawyers using deceptive advertising practices will further injure the precarious reputation of the entire industry. Nobody like lawyers; it seems that other lawyers don't even like lawyers. In fact, the best lawyer jokes I've heard were told to me by lawyers.
Q: What do you call a ditch filled with dead lawyers?

A: A good start.
or this one:
Q: What's the difference between a catfish and a lawyer?

A: One is a bottom-feeding scum-sucker, and the other is a fish.
And they go from there.

When you have an industry that suffers a horrible reputation, even at its best of times, the last thing you need is deceptive advertising.

Come now, Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, a law firm with offices in the Empire State Building, that actually uses . . . are you ready for this . . . the World Trade Center memorial as the banner of its website, and posts WTC victim-related information right on its front page:

So, in an effort to sink below the lowest piece of whale shit on the planet, this company is capitalizing on the crimes at the World Trade Center that killed three thousand people almost ten years ago.

The URL for their website is http://www.877wtchero.com/index.html! That's right: WTC Hero! Adding the 877 telephone area code just increases the sleaze factor!

If that isn't creepy enough, they recently created and published an ad (now removed from rotation) depicting a dirty, though rather handsome, fireman holding a framed picture of the WTC ruins and stating "I was there":

Well, that fireman was NOT there, and the law firm had, or allowed, its advertising agency Barker/DZP to doctor the picture. Originally, this was a picture of a firefighter holding his helmet, and the agency cropped out the helmet to insert the photo of the WTC.

Are you feeling grossed-out yet?

It gets better!

When the law firm came under fire for the advertisement, it didn't just remove it, they then went so far as to try and defend themselves by posting the model's signed release on their website; on the front page of their website! See the picture above of the firm's website with the WTC memorial lights and red headline about respiratory illnesses and you can see that they have posted "Robert Keiley's signed model release." This is in an effort to deflect criticism by the model that they cropped his image and made him look bad in the law enforcement and public safety communities.

Everything that lawyers feared could happen when law firms advertise is happening right here. The lawyers made a poor choice of advertising campaigns, they are exploiting for profit the pain of those who have suffered and are unable to advocate for themselves, they are promoting themselves with that pain, they are outright lying about their services, and now they are blaming the model in their advertisement in an effort to deflect responsibility.

These guys bring the reputation of all lawyers to a new low.

Here is the apology from the ad agency, in which they refer to this as a "mistake": U.S. agency apologizes over 9/11 ad mistake

See, also, New York law firm, advertising agency under fire over 9/11 ad.

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