History of Law Firm Marketing

It has been almost 40 years since the 1977 case of Arizona v Bates.  This case came about because two lawyers who were trying to drum up business through advertising were disbarred for doing so.  They appealed to the US Supreme Court and won.  This made it possible for attorneys and their firms to advertise at will.  This was the beginning of lawyer marketing as we know it today.


In the beginning, ambitious lawyers of all types sought to have their names on buses, benches and bill boards.  In addition, attorneys gobbled up law oriented 800 numbers and bought Yellow Page advertisements by the page.  Black and white brochures soon followed.  There were no pictures in the first law firm pamphlets.  They were single spaced and all text highlighting the work of the firm that created it.


By 1985, larger firms had begun to hire in house marketers.  These executives were in charge of getting the law firms name as well as the names of its attorneys in print.  Additionally, they created 24 page handouts on the work of the firm.  There were no pictures and not many people read them, but once one firm designed on, the rest had to follow along.  Law marketing and public relations executives were also charged with creating unread newsletters as well.  Executives did not read them because they were full of legal jargon, but law firms sent them out anyway.

It wasn’t until 1987 that color and pictures were added to law marketing materials.  Unfortunately, most firms used gavels, light bulbs or people shaking hands as their primary images.  Around this time, newsletters also began to become more readable and firms started creating material targeted to the specific prospective clients needs.  Although pitch meetings included researched and focused materials, they were more beauty exhibition than sales display and creative marketing became the “thing” of the times.


In 1995, the written service guarantee was created and in 1996, The American Bar Association published the first edition of The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet.  In 1997, the first online review website for attorneys was created.  Around 2001, branding became the buzzword of the times.  Today it is called differentiation or positioning and allows the marketer to set the firm up as different from the rest in the industry.  While strategies are more on target now than in previous years, the idea is still to get prospective clients attention.  Anyone who has perused a law magazine recently knows there are still strides to be made.


In 2005, blogging and pod casting were added to the many different ways attorneys and their firms approach the idea of lawyer marketingThis, along with the firm’s website has allowed the brochure to be more streamlined and has allowed the newsletter to be adapted into a variety of different mediums.  These tools, along with additional marketing training for all attorneys at a firm will assist in increasing both the number of clients as well as the bottom line for the company.

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