For most lawyers, they have surely heard statements like this over time. For lawyers who have been practicing a long time, this is often the mentality. The idea is that a lawyer should stay off the radio and television. They should stay off the billboards and out of the magazines and phone books. On top of it, the internet is viewed skeptically. To many, a lawyer certainly shouldn’t delve into marketing themselves online.
The thought is that a lawyer can slowly build their practice through word of mouth referrals. Over time, the lawyer can generate more and more word of mouth clients through referrals. For lots of lawyers, they get indoctrinated to this viewpoint from some lawyers who have been around a much longer time.
The idea is that the newer or younger lawyer should wait in line. They should let the lawyers who have been around longer scoop up most of the good business in the present. The newer or younger lawyer should then be content to sit back and wait for their turn. Over many years, the newer or younger lawyer will no longer be a newer or younger lawyer. The lawyers who had been around before them will retire or be gone. They will then have the experience and reputation after a long time to finally build a thriving practice through word of mouth referrals — without ever doing any advertising.
Does this mindset work today? Should lawyers simply not marketing and wait for their build their practice over many years or many decades?
For many lawyers, they do just that. When they are told to not spend advertising dollars and simply wait for many years or decades, many do it. The problem is that this results in a lot of lawyers really delaying having a successful practice. It also delays that lawyers from being able to use their skill set to provide competent, communicative, and diligent legal representation to those in need.
Many lawyers in this day and age also owe a significant amount of money in student loans. This was not the case decades ago. Today, the average lawyer walks out of law school owing between $84,000 to $122,158 in student loans. The net result of the increasing student loans is that most lawyers cannot afford many years or many decades to build a successful practice. They have to do it out of the gates, or quickly thereafter, or else those student loan payments are not going to get paid. They also cannot provide for their family in any kind of meaningful way.
The irony is that advertising works. That’s why some lawyers tell others not to do it. Advertising certainly causes the phone to ring. If you develop a comprehensive marketing plan that is unique and thoughtful, many lawyers can get their phone to ring in short order. If the phone is ringing, and that lawyer if they professionally present themselves, they can often get many quality clients. Certainly, lawyers need to make sure they know the ethical rules regarding advertising. They then need to make sure they abide by those rules. Advertisements should also be classy and dignified.
However, instead of waiting for many years or many decades, most lawyers can grow their practice now if they reject the mindset that they cannot advertise. This means that the lawyer will be in a position where they can provide quality representation to clients and pay off those student loans. Ultimately, the lawyer can be in a position where eventually they can retire at a decent age (like most others do in society) to spend time with their families and enjoy life.
Meanwhile, the lawyer who didn’t advertise, because they were told not to, will likely be walking up and down those courthouse steps until the day they die. And that last student loan check might not be sent until 30-years or so after they graduated from law school.
“Don’t advertise. Be patient and build your practice?” Most lawyers who have a sense of them will reject this mindset.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.