Advertising is just one tool in the marketing toolbox. It doesn’t make my top ten list of best marketing practices, because I don’t think advertising is as effective as other legal marketing techniques, except for personal injury firms or others trying to reach a broader audience. Further, I have seen lawyers fail to undertake their own personal, individual lawyer marketing activities just because they thought that the firm’s “institutional” marketing, such as advertising, brochure, website, sponsorships, etc. would do the trick.
Thus, I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw the post by my friend Larry Bodine entitled “Proof: Advertising Works.” Larry is referring to a “research” study by ALM.com entitled “An Analysis of Advertising and its Effect on Law Firm Revenue Growth.” (emphasis mine) Sorry, but you’ll have to register to get a copy of this 4-page report.**
** (well actually page one is just the title page, page two – the “analysis”, page three – contains three charts, and finally a list of law firms that had spent in excess of $10,000 (wow! Imagine that), and a smaller list of firms that spent in excess of $100,000 in three of the last 5 years – the firms in the latter list are also included in $10K list. It’s not clear why they double counted firms).
I looked at this “report” to see if there was information that would change my mind on the affects of advertising on a firm’s bottom line. My analysis began with the top 20 most successful law firms from the 2004 AmLaw 100 list (one of the bases of firm revenues in the report) against the list of firms cited on page 4. What I found:
- Only 8 of the top 20 highest grossing law firms even made the lists,
- Among the top 5 law firms, each grossed in excess of $1 BILLION in revenues. One doesn’t advertise at all apparently (No. 1- Skadden), and although one did make the “$100,000 or more” spent on advertising list, the other 3 were only on the list of $10,000 or more spent).
In my experience $10,000 dollars will not buy very much in the ad world of legal publications (or any publications for that matter). Heck, it will hardly cover the cost of ads in the high school yearbooks for ten of the partners’ kids. So, how much of a difference does advertising make to the revenue growth of law firms? How valuable is this report? I’ll let you be the judge.
In all honesty I must admit I was somewhat skeptical from the start because the report was produced by ALM, a media company that sells ad space in its numerous publications. A more valuable, less self-serving survey would carry a lot more weight with me if in-house counsel or senior company executives were surveyed and asked: “Does law firm advertising influence your buying decision?”