Law Firm Advertising, the New York Bar Association, and the First Amendment

I just read a hysterical “fake news article” in Litination (www.litination.com) that states that the New York State Bar is delaying bar exam results for one year due to the saturated legal market in New York. This article was obviously written in jest, and in fact the disclaimer of the site reads:

“…As the author of this site, my goal is to provide an entertaining diversion from the regularly scheduled billable hour or law school seminar. I’ll provide the fake legal news and some links to real headlines…”

This being said, there is real truth in the underlying premise. According to the ABA, there were 1.18 million attorneys in the U.S. at the end of 2008 and J.D. enrollment continues to grow. In 1988, there was 1 lawyer for every 400 people. By 2000, that number grew to 1 lawyer for every 300 people and in 2008 that number grew to 1 lawyer for every 258 people. While it’s true that some of this growth can be attributed to lawyers focusing on new and developing areas of law, it’s also true that competition is much greater in the core practice areas than ever. Add to this the fact that more and more firms have websites and are proactively advertising and marketing themselves, and it’s easy to understand why many firms (even those not directly affected by our current economy) are struggling and their phones aren’t ringing.

Now I’m not advocating that every firm must rush out and start spending a lot of money on needless or ineffective marketing, but I do believe that law firms, now more than ever must have a strategy and a plan if they are to be successful. Gone are the days that just being a good lawyer guaranteed a successful and fulfilling career, or when marketing meant taking a prospect or prospective referral partner out for lunch once a month. For most, success now requires that you look at your law firm, not just as a Practice, but also as a Business.