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Portland Press Herald Article on Lawyer Advertising

As many of you know, I am on vacation this week (back on Monday). Enclosed is a recent article by a fine journalist from the Portland Press Herald, Greg Kesich, which discusses attorney advertising.




In trouble? Let your fingers do the walking
Many criminal defense lawyers looking for clients find the phone book is the best place for ads.


By GREGORY D. KESICH Staff Writer © Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. July 18, 2007


Rape. Murder. Kidnapping.
If your business demanded that you be in touch with people charged with those crimes, how would you find them? How would they find you?
For a number of criminal defense lawyers in southern Maine, the answer is an ad in the phone book.
"People know where the phone book is," said Barry Jackman, a salesman for Idearc Media, the company that puts together Verizon's Yellow Pages. "When you get to jail, you can ask for a phone book."
Although lawyers have been allowed for years to advertise in other media, including television, those who specialize in criminal defense still consider the telephone directory the best way to get their names out.
It's an advertising sector that grows every year, Jackman said, even as more lawyers say they are looking to Internet sites and search-engine advertising to find clients.
Ads in the Yellow Pages are distinguished by slogans crafted to catch the eye of people in serious trouble, such as:
"The OUI guy";
"False Accusations";
"When winning IS everything!"
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed lawyers to advertise for the first time. In a series of rulings since then, courts have determined that the content of the ads is protected free speech.
Maine's ethics rules for lawyers permit them to make truthful public statements about the fields of law in which they practice, the courts in which they appear and certifications they have received.
In a separate section of "aspirational goals," the bar rules ask those who advertise to avoid crass images of the workings of the legal system and "representations designed to appeal to greed, exploit the fears of potential clients, or promote a suggestion of violence."
Violations of the rules are rare. In more than 600 complaints to the Board of Overseers of the Bar in the past two years, only two involved advertising and neither resulted in any discipline, said J. Scott Davis, who heads the board's legal staff.
Within those limits the field is wide open, but most lawyers follow the tradition of not advertising or placing ads listing only their names and phone numbers.
The best known legal advertisers in Maine are personal injury lawyers such as Joe Bornstein and the firm Hardy Wolf & Downing. They are fixtures on television and have multiple print ads and Internet sites seeking victims of car accidents, workplace injuries and even dog bites.
Criminal defense lawyers cannot cast such a wide net, said Thomas Hallett, a Portland lawyer who eight years ago became one of the first in his specialty to advertise in the phone book.
"I don't want a hundred calls," said Hallett, who runs an office with three attorneys. "You want to draw significant crimes, and the ad has done that."
Hallett's ad has grown over the years. In the current phone book it fills an entire page. The ad combines a photograph of Hallett looking up from a law book, next to the question that asks whether you've been charged with, among other things, sexual assault, rape, theft, murder or kidnapping. A picture at the bottom of the page shows a pair of hands cuffed together under the headline "Busted." Next to it is a man running free outside what appears to be a courthouse, under the header "De-Busted."
Hallett said a graphic designer reconfigured the ad for him using a more "high end" approach, and dropped the "busted ... de- busted" headlines. But now that he has counted his responses, the two photos are back.
Not all lawyers go for catchy slogans. Tom Connolly uses a minimalist approach. His ad has his name in small type on the top line, and his address and phone number on the bottom. In between is an inch of blank space.
"Advertising is supposed to distinguish, and everybody was using the same words," Connolly said. "Sometimes the absence speaks louder than words. I hope so, anyway."
The effectiveness of the telephone book in criminal cases has something to do with the sensitivity of the charges.
People who might ask around at work for the name of a lawyer to handle a will or a real estate deal might be more circumspect when facing a charge of drunken driving, said Jackman, the ad salesman.
Jackman would not say how much it costs to advertise in his Yellow Pages, but lawyers say they can spend more than $1,000 a month on the ads.
Portland attorney Tim Zerillo has used the Yellow Pages on and off over the years. Now, he is steering most of his advertising budget to the Internet. He has his own Web site, legal blog, online referral services and sponsored hits on the Google search engine.
The Internet allows him to reach out-of-state clients.
"It's probably how I would look for a lawyer," he said. "Everybody's got a computer now."
Still, many lawyers think the telephone directory is worth it.
"It pays dividends," said J.P. DeGrinney, a criminal defense lawyer who has been in private practice for the past decade.
A lawyer just starting out has few ways to be known, he said. Most potential clients don't have experience with the court system and will latch on to a familiar name when they need help.
"The first thing you have to do is do a good job," he said. "Word- of-mouth advertising is better than anything, and the majority of clients are steered here by friends and family; but after that, it's the Yellow Pages."
Staff Writer Gregory D. Kesich can be contacted at 791-6336 or at:
gkesich@pressherald.com

2 Comments

hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until september...here is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here>

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