Advertising in Lawyer Ratings Publications: A Goldmine … But Not for Your Law Firm!

by Debra Andrews | April 10, 2014

Our law firm clients are frequently getting hit with tons of advertising opportunities from publications that compile lists of “highly rated” lawyers. These legal ratings websites and publications offer different levels of advertising and promotional packages to highlight firms’ attorneys, and oftentimes firms aren’t sure of what to do. Is it worth the time, the effort, and most importantly – the cost? It’s not only the cost for the ad placement itself that must be considered, but also the cost of hiring a designer to create the ad.

The amount of money that law firms spend for these advertising opportunities is truly the name of the game. Want to have your firm’s Super Lawyers and Rising Stars profiled in a full-page color ad in our magazine? If you reserve your space by tomorrow, we’ll even give you a better placement in the publication and we’ll throw in some complimentary copies in the mail. So, fork it over – we think you’ll pay up, because what lawyer doesn’t want to be considered “super” or one of the “best?”

To see what folks in-house at law firms think about all this, I sought the opinion of an executive director (who prefers to remain anonymous) at a Center City Philadelphia law firm. Here’s what he had to say:

“When Super Lawyers first hit the scene and I was working at another law firm in the late 90s, I was approached by an advertising representative to purchase an ad. I told her that I couldn’t do so because one of our firm’s two principals was named a Super Lawyer and the other wasn’t. Her response was ‘I can take care of that for you.’ I was amazed that she could magically turn a non-Super Lawyer into a Super Lawyer.”

Don’t Fall for This Law Firm Marketing Trap

We see law firms fall into this money pit trap way too easily. They feel compelled to have an ad presence. Maybe it’s related to ego, or maybe it’s the thought that “everybody is else doing it so we should, too.” But what happens if you don’t pay mega bucks to advertise? Does it mean you can’t compete? Does it mean you won’t get new clients or referral sources? NOT ONE BIT!
Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Top Lawyers, and Marquis Who’s Who in American Law are all eager to sell you advertising space in their online and print editions to make their publications profitable. This is a genius money-making scheme that preys on lawyers and law firms. When lawyers receive notification that they’ve been named and can buy tiers of ads in upcoming magazines, they feel like they have to do it. They become convinced that if they don’t buy an ad, they might not be featured as prominently. However, I’m here to tell you that not advertising in these publications will not cause any harm to your or your firm’s reputation.

Think of How People Search for Law Services

As a marketer working with many different law firms over the years, I can tell you that buyers of legal services are more likely to trust online search results, rather than scrolling through a long list of attorneys profiled in Best Lawyers or Super Lawyers. Do you really think being included in a long list of hundreds of “super” lawyers is going to make a difference? It won’t set you apart or differentiate you, and more than likely it won’t bring you any new business.
Most people looking for a certain type of lawyer would go to Google and type in a search phrase (e.g., “divorce attorney in Norristown, Pa.” or “IP law firms in Philadelphia”). If they have a particular legal issue, they’ll likely type their issue/pain point right into a Google search (e.g., “What if my ex moves out of state with my kids?”), and they’re going to find a ton of results from and about law firms addressing this issue – and no results with the terms “super-duper lawyer” or “best lawyer in the universe” designations. Do your referral sources tell prospects, “You should hire Joe – he’s a Super-Duper Lawyer” or rather do they say, “Joe knows more about custody relocation cases than anyone I know?”

Content Wise or Super Foolish

So, if I were a decision-maker at a law firm and wanted to be cautious about overall budget and marketing spend, I wouldn’t waste my time on ridiculous ads that show lawyers to other lawyers and serve to boost egos saying “look at me!” Instead, I would rather focus energies and dollars on smarter ways to profile the firm and its attorneys through content marketing (which in turn boosts search rankings on Google, making it easier for people to find the firm).
Content marketing involves creating authentically helpful and relevant online content (think thought leadership and providing starting points for specific solutions) that prospects for your legal services would find valuable. This could be content in blog posts, white papers, FAQs, online webinars, video blogs, etc., to attract your target audience in such a way that inspires them to contact you for more information. Promoting this content on your firm’s social media sites and packaging/repurposing it to send it out as email blasts to your clients, colleagues, referral sources and prospects allows even greater reach. All content should lead back to your website, which ideally should serve as a major hub of information for interested parties.
Learn more about content marketing for attorney or inbound marketing the next time you’re faced with an advertising proposition from a legal publication. You might think twice before signing up, and perhaps give content marketing a shot instead!

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